Smith, Tailwind remade downtown Mankato in 2015

Dan Linehan
The Free Press, Mankato, MN
Date: Sunday, March 27, 2016

MANKATO — No single public space in Mankato was as transformed in 2015 as the 500 block of Front Street and Riverfront Drive.

The three projects that have reshaped this square block of downtown started the year as shells and ended it as fully formed buildings.

The two office towers, the five-story Ridley Tower and seven-story Profinium Place, brought close to 350 workers downtown, said Kyle Smith, director of development for Tailwind Group. The 20 apartments in the five-story buildings, called the Residences of 518, brought dozens more residents to live downtown.

The influx of new workers and residents means more customers for downtown businesses. Two new eateries — Polito’s Pizza and WYSIWYG, a juice bar — opened on this block this year. Stardoc Studios, which focuses on music, comedy and and other events, also remodeled.

A rising tide lifts all boats, Smith said.

After more than a year of construction, though, the dominant emotion in the downtown may be relief that the disruption is over.

“It really went very smoothly from start to finish,” Smith said. “We feel fortunate, too.”

Within two months, both office towers are expected to be fully occupied. The apartments have been leased up, too.

Though Rent MSU is Tailwind’s sister company, the apartments weren’t targeted at college students. Professional adults were always their target market, and that’s who has chosen to live there.

“It’s an interesting mix of young professionals,” he said.

The first floor of the apartment complex is the only open space. The original plan had the bar Red Sky locating there. A message left with one of the company’s owners wasn’t returned.

As Tailwind’s projects in this area finished up in 2015, other projects ramped up.

The largest of them is a student housing complex called The Quarters. It’s across the street from College Town, a gated student development Tailwind finished a few years ago.

The Quarters is slated to house about 490 students, only slightly more than College Town. But it’s on roughly half the acreage.

“We tried to take more of a vertical approach,” he said. The first level consists of flat, single-story units, while second-level units include two floors. A townhome on top of a flat, in other words.

As with college housing nationwide, amenities are key at The Quarters. Its clubhouse has a golf simulator and a Starbucks coffee lounge as well as 24-hour tanning and fitness facilities.

Today’s college students may have grown up with amenities, such as their own bathroom, and expect the same for college life. That’s a recent development, Smith said.

“The whole demand factor has changed in 10 years,” he said. “I never thought (there would be) golf simulators in student housing.”

Or so many bathrooms, for that matter.

“I didn’t have my own bathroom at home as a kid,” Smith said.

The Quarters is slated for July 1 completion.

Also in 2015, Tailwind won the bid to redevelop Mankato’s former fire station on Madison Avenue. As of September, it has become the home of Little Stars Early Learning Center.

“It was challenging, anytime you take on, I’ll just say this, a venture like that,” Smith said.

Tailwind also finished a new AT&T store along Madison Avenue. It’s among the first of the company’s latest, state-of-the-art store model, he said.

The company also finished the redevelopment of a long-abandoned gas station site on Riverfront Drive, across from the YMCA.

They’re working now on a project at Frandsen Bank & Trust on Madison Avenue that should have a similar look. The bank will scale down and be joined by two shops: a Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Tailwind has heard some interest from one more long-awaited franchise — Dunkin’ Donuts — but the company is still looking for a franchisee, he said.

When it comes to 2016 projects, including about whether Tailwind has an eye on redeveloping the former post office, Smith spoke as if more were in the pipeline but decided to stay mum on the details.

He did seek to emphasize that, while he is often the public face of the company, Tailwind Group is comprised of three other partners, too: Reggie Reed, director of operations; Michael Sather, director of finance; and Landon Smith, director of marketing and leasing.