My boyfriend and I took his kids to Water Park of America, the beer options were minimal and we didn’t care.
Published: January 2, 2009
An eternal optimist, Hoffman was a pioneer of the Minneapolis riverfront condominium market.
By DAN BROWNING
If Shel Hoffman had lived to see the new year, his wife, Judy, said Thursday, he would have said, “It’s a bluebird day!”
Never mind the rapidly spreading colon cancer that had metastasized to his liver or the foundering real estate market where he had plied his trade. Shel Hoffman, a pioneer of the Minneapolis riverfront condo market, focused on the bright side of things.
Described as an eternal optimist, Hoffman, 63, died Wednesday at his St. Louis Park home surrounded by family.
Hoffman was born in Minneapolis in 1945, attended Washburn High School and graduated from Augsburg College with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. He taught at St. Bartholomew Catholic School in Wayzata, where he met the daughter of Roger Fazendin of Fazendin Realtors, who would help him break into his new career.
When Hoffman took a test to determine his aptitude for selling real estate, his wife recalled, he was told he’d never make it. “He was told that he was too kind to be a closer,” she said. “That’s what his hallmark was. He was kind to everybody.”
Hoffman started out with developer Bob Boisclair working on the Lake Point Condominiums, a Minneapolis high-rise overlooking Lake Calhoun that was finished in 1978. In the mid-1980s, he became marketing director for Riverplace, a condo, office and retail complex on SE. Main Street along the east bank of the Mississippi River.
“That’s when the market went into the tank,” Judy Hoffman said.
She said her husband helped market the Falls and La Rive condos. He got involved on the ground floor of such developments because he knew what the buyers wanted, she said.
His customers remembered him fondly. “My wife and I bought a condo at La Rive from Shel in 1985,” Barry Rubin wrote Wednesday on a Facebook memorial page. “He was the most accommodating real estate agent to work with. He never said ‘no’ to any request no matter how large or small. He was the definition of a gentleman.”
His colleagues agreed. “Ol’ Uncle Shel, as we called him, will always have a special place in my heart,” wrote Cynthia Kay Froid of Keller Williams Realty. “He took me under his wing as a young rookie in the business and shared so much of his love for the business, the community and life with me.”
Hoffman worked with Brighton Development Corp., then eventually formed his own company, S.R. Hoffman and Associates, which later became Hoffman Parkin Urban Realty.
Scott Parkin said Hoffman was instrumental in getting people to move to the riverfront. “It was just really upper-crust, aristocratic bluebloods of the entire city, and really captains of industry, that moved into all those homes,” Parkin said. “Shel was coordinating all of that, and he touched all of them.”
Parkin bought Hoffman out last summer, but said the company name will remain the same in honor of his mentor.
Hoffman is survived by Judy, his wife of 38 years; a daughter, Katherine Lee of Robbinsdale; a son, David, of Big Sky, Mont., and two grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Edina Community Lutheran Church.
Dan Browning – 612-673-4493
Now, I know I haven’t been very good at posting as often as I want. It’s a new year and I expect 2013 to be a great year for the Twin Cities and for me, which means it will be a great year for MSP365 as well!
Today would have been Dad’s 68th birthday but unfortunately he passed away from colon cancer eight days before his 64th birthday. Rather than focus on his far too early death, let me tell you a little bit about his life.
Dad was born, raised, and educated in Minneapolis. He loved our lakes, our culture, our food, and most of all – our people. He took advantage of living and working in the city at every opportunity, even keeping his skates in the trunk of his car so he could stop at Lake of the Isles on his way home from work.
My Dad also helped the city become what it is today. He started as a history teacher but moved in to real estate in the late seventies. While he started in suburban homes, he quickly became involved in several real estate projects that changed our city.
He worked on the marketing of the first high rise condominium building in Minneapolis, Lakepoint, near Lake Calhoun. From there he went to Northeast Minneapolis to work on LaRive, another high rise attached to historic Riverplace. This was before the beautiful Hennepin Avenue bridge was built in 1991 and the bustling shopping community we love today had emerged.
On the other side of the river, he helped convince people that the ruins of a blanket mill could become luxury homes. Without his passion and those early “settlers,” the Mill District might not today be home to great restaurants, the new Guthrie Theater, and Gold Medal Park.
Now I’m not saying he was the only person responsible for any of this. He wasn’t the developer, the investor, or the architect. But he was on these sites, meeting people, and selling our city. Living downtown was still a new idea. There were no grocery stores, no downtown schools, no light rail. But his background in education combined with his charisma, charm, and grace helped sell a dream. And that dream is still rippling through our city.
There will be no statues of my Dad. He won’t have a park named after him. But he does have monuments and memorials spread all over Minneapolis.
So the next time you’re buying wine at Surdyk’s, shopping at one of the downtown Lund’s stores, taking in a show at the Guthrie, or walking across the beautifully lit Stone Arch Bridge – stop for a moment, look around and realize how much of what you see didn’t exist ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, and remember a man who loved this city enough to dedicate his life to helping others love it enough to live it every day.
He was my Dad. My love for this city IS my love for him.