Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

How Joe Ryan diversified Oppidan from just developing retail

Oppidan Investment Co. spent its first two decades buying land, building retail on the land and then selling the parcel. 

Then the recession hit and founder and CEO Joe Ryan shifted the way the Excelsior-based developer does business. 

Today, Oppidan has become much more diversified, with about half of its projects in senior housing, a quarter of them in retail and the last quarter a mix of multifamily housing, data centers and industrial. 

Oppidan recently finished Lowa, a 148-unit apartment building above a new urban Cub Foods store near Minnehaha Falls. It’s also constructing The Pillars of Prospect Park, an $83 million project in the hot Minneapolis neighborhood with 283 senior housing units. And that's just locally. The firm develops projects all across the country, including an under-construction senior housing project in California's Napa Valley. 

Ryan is introducing virtual reality into the company’s senior communities and partnering with child care centers on cross-programming. He also created a fund to help bring in arts and culture programming to the properties. 

Oppidan grew in the 1990s and 2000s thanks in large part to being a major developer of grocery stores in the Twin Cities, as well as a developer for retailers expanding nationally, including Gander Mountain (now Gander Outdoors). That continues as Oppidan is building Duluth Trading Co.’s national footprint and is doing stores for ABRA Auto Body & Glass.

In between the recession and today’s strong economy, Oppidan kept busy around the North Dakota Bakken oil fields, developing small apartment buildings and retail centers anchored by Coborn’s. 

He spoke the Business Journal for an interview that’s been edited for length and clarity. 

Senior housing has become a big focus for you. Why?

I hate to reflect back on the downturn, but those were learning days for us and others in our business and many businesses. We were primarily a retail developer back then and when the downturn occurred, we made a decision to diversify, and senior housing is a big part of that.

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