FaceTime: Chris Osmundson went from selling bikes to developing downtown high-rises

Business Journal –

Nine years ago Chris Osmundson was selling bikes because he couldn’t get a job in real estate. Three years ago he had to be pulled from Lake Minnetonka after breaking his neck in a diving accident.

Today, Osmundson, at just 30 years old, is developing a pair of Minneapolis skyline-altering projects for Alatus. One project is a 40-story condo tower called 200 Central on one end of downtown and a 27-story apartment tower on the other, near the Minneapolis Convention Center.

His body has mostly recovered from the injuries sustained in the accident and you can spot him riding his bike around town or in long-distance races elsewhere.

Osmundson is part of a new wave of young Twin Cities developers, and he’s opinionated on Twitter (@Chris_Oz) about bike infrastructure, density and politics.

He recently talked to the Business Journal. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A few years ago you were selling bikes. Now you’re the development director for a big developer. How did that happen?

(Laughs) I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2009 with a business degree and an economics degree. I had two job offers in Chicago rescinded because of the recession. When I graduated there were no job prospects, especially in real estate. No one was doing anything.

So I went to work at Penn Cycle and worked there for six months. Then I got a job with [Plymouth-based developer] Dominium and then, on my weekends, I worked part-time as a salesperson and a mechanic at Freewheel Bike.

How does being a millennial, a biker and a downtown resident shape the way you think as a developer?

Every time I fill in for [Alatus Principal] Bob [Lux] on a panel, I always disclose that I am a millennial because the discussion is always about millennials doing this and millennials doing that. Well, I am a millennial. So I can help there.

Every week I read a new statistic about millennials moving into houses and out of urban areas — doing the same thing the boomers did but at a later time in their life. I also think there’s more of a component of [millennials] living in more of an urban setting even if it is in a suburb.

A lot of the environmental considerations come into play. I always look to see if there’s a transit component to the project. We did a New Hope project. It’s a first-ring suburb and it’s a mile from the Bottineau line. I also like the outdoor component with the municipal golf course [the project is next to New Hope Village Golf Course]. It feeds into the healthy living craze.

In our office, we have Bob, who is 60, and has been developing properties for 30-plus year years. We try to mold our experiences together a bit.

You’re vocal on Twitter about density debates. Your former boss at Dominium, Paul Sween, told me a while back that there’s less NIMBYism [not in my backyard] than in previous years, and there are these pro-density groups popping up to push for more housing. What do you think about this trend?

Paul is right, especially as the housing crisis evolves. I think in a lot of communities affordable housing is seen as something that even if a community is not totally on board with it, they feel they need to have affordable housing in their community. So for Paul Sween, being a managing partner of Dominium, there is a lot less NIMBYism. But working on a site in downtown Minneapolis where the NIMBYism has shifted away from affordable housing to just density and infrastructure, there’s still a lot of NIMBYism, especially when there’s an established neighborhood character.

There’s a really good economic argument that if you are creating luxury housing, maybe at this moment it’s luxury housing, but more than likely it’s going to become affordable housing.

I don’t know if there’s less NIMBYism, it’s just shifted more to the urban areas where people feel like there’s a lot of change. When there’s change, there’s a big discussion.

What’s your read on the recent city of Minneapolis elections and how they will affect development going forward?

With Jacob Frey being elected mayor, it’s not a [secret] he is pro-development. So from a pro-growth perspective, I think the elections were really good. I will be very curious to see where inclusionary zoning policies go. I have spent a lot of time looking at how they work in different communities and I think there are ways to incentivize it so it is beneficial for affordable housing creation.

Jacob is really creative and I think he’ll work with the council to find ways to create more affordable housing.

One thing that has been on the radar is rent control. I don’t think there are a lot of studies or anecdotal evidence that that works very well, especially with Minneapolis not being one of the metro areas with a high cost of living.

Chris Osmundson

Director of development, Alatus

Age: 30

Education: Bachelor of Arts, economics; Bachelor of Business Administration, University of Wisconsin

Family: Engaged

Hobbies: Cycling, traveling, the outdoors, reading

By: Nick Halter
Date: Dec 4, 2017
View original article and images here.