Towerside is a 370-acre district at the heart of the Twin Cities’ 3.5-million-person metro area. The Innovation District extends from the University of Minnesota on the west to the Creative Enterprise Zone on the east spanning two cities and two counties.
The community-born vision for this district called for capitalizing on its incredibly rich concentration of assets – the University of Minnesota, its medical and research complex, three Green Line LRT stations, two thriving neighborhoods – by creating a high-intensity, high density mix of places and spaces where working, living and innovation come together in an equitable, diverse and sustainable community.
Seeking to become a new replicable model of urban redevelopment rooted in district-wide systems for energy, stormwater management, parking, and connected public realm, the Towerside Innovation District was formed to enable community stakeholders and facilitate the vision. As a community and economic development framework Towerside includes a wide array of partners such as higher education institutions, landowners, businesses, government, nonprofit organizations, and neighborhood groups. Towerside creates framework guidelines, finds early capital to support the district-wide infrastructure systems and advances this vision with potential investors, developers and the neighborhoods.
Meet the Staff
Stephen is the Project Manager for Towerside Innovation District. He works across every aspect of Towerside including organizational planning, stakeholder engagement, communications, funding proposals, and supporting the design and construction of integrated infrastructure systems. Stephen has garnered an array of experience working between a number of private, nonprofit, and academic organizations advancing community-based development at multiple scales. He holds a Master of Architecture and a Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University along with a dual major in Public Policy through the Maxwell School of Citizenship.
Board of Directors
Towerside Innovation District is governed by it's volunteer board of directors and supported by its diverse partner organizations. Towerside’s strength and potential rely on public-private coordinated partnerships. This structure aligns leadership, improves cross-sector collaboration, and builds new models of inclusive governance to drive effective planning and project delivery.
Meet the Board
Alan has served as the president and chief executive officer of Aeon since 1988. Alan oversees the organization’s 4,010 affordable apartment homes in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and brings a wide range of experience, including construction, code enforcement and city planning, lending, and real estate development. He earned a B.A. in political science from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Alan teaches affordable housing development, financing and organizational governance issues to a variety of organizations.
Mike is the VP for University Services and has had a broad career for 23 years at the University of Minnesota. University Services (2,222 FTE and $416M annual budget) includes: Public Safety, Facilities, Capital Projects, Housing, Dining, and other campus operations. Mike also has served as AVP for Facilities, CFO for U Services and Budget Officer at the U. Mike earned his Master’s in Public Policy from the U of MN’s Humphrey Institute and a BA from Concordia in Moorhead, MN.
Jeff is an attorney and owner of Fenske Law Office, P.C. located at Cleveland and Marshall in St. Paul, MN. He has practiced in St. Paul for over 30 years. In his practice Jeff primarily assists businesses with all of their legal needs and also represents individuals in the areas of estate planning, probate and real estate. He is the immediate past Board Chair of the Midway Chamber of Commerce, is on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation, Inc., and is the past President and current Treasurer of the St. Paul Midway Lions Club and its Foundation.
Metric is a policy coordinator with the Community Stabilization Project in Saint Paul, which advocates for tenants’ rights. He serves or has served in active roles with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association, the Summit-University Planning Council and the Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, the Jordan Park School, the Dispute Resolution Center, the Circle of Peace anti-violence initiative and St. Paul Almanac. He also served on the Metropolitan Council’s Central Corridor Community Advisory Committee, working with community members and civic groups to include additional stations along the Green Line light rail corridor.
Dick is a practicing/consulting architect who has served as senior designer and principal in charge of design for a broad range of clients, building types and urban planning challenges. Dick is president of Prospect Park 2020, Inc., a 501-(c3) community development corporation, and a board member of the Prospect Park Association and the University District Alliance established by the Legislature to address planning and development issues unique to the University community. He has served on the advisory board of the Metropolitan Design Center in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and currently co-chairs the facilities committee at the Textile Center.
Sarah is Managing Director of the University of Minnesota Foundation Real Estate Advisors. She was invited to develop this subsidiary to focus on strategic oversight of Foundation owned real estate assets, solicitation and analysis of real estate gifts, and real estate advocacy, investments and partnerships to support the mission of the University. Her leadership of UMFREA follows more than three decades of commercial real estate services that typically involved mission based public/private partnerships and public realm leadership including launching and running the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District. Additionally, she has served on numerous cultural, community and professional boards, and committees.
Michael is a Senior Program Manager in the Center for Prevention of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Recent work focuses on helping Minnesota communities to enable residents to more easily pursue physically active lifestyles through increased bicycling and walking for transportation and recreation, and identifying strategies to reduce health disparities in the state. He has formerly served on various committees of the University of MN Center for Transportation Studies, MN Department of Transportation, MN Department of Health, and the Urban Land Institute - MN.
Cara serves on the Metropolitan Council, the regional planning organization for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, where she represents part of Minneapolis and the Village of St. Anthony. On the Council, Cara is a member of the Transportation Committee, which oversees both metropolitan transportation planning and Metro Transit, the region’s transit system. She is also the Principal of Mill City Consulting where she supports community efforts and organizations to more effectively meet their missions. She has spent the past 20 years working in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area at the intersection of community organizing and policy-making, including five years as Policy Aide to former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Karen resides in the Saint Paul portion of Towerside and serves on St Anthony Park Community Council’s Board of Directors, co-char’s the Land Use Committee and is active in the Transportation Committee. She is concerned about improving land use efficiency, increasing mixed-use zoning for industrial areas, housing supply, affordable housing, and improving pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure for all ages. Karen is a civil engineer working for Versa-Lok Retaining walls where she enjoys seeing civil plans for projects going out to bid across the nation.
Vince is President/CEO of Prospect Park Association. His background is in medical information technology, with over 20 years experience in cross-functional leadership roles at Medtronic, Inc. and Fairview/University Medical Center. He is currently principal of Northriver Solutions LLC, a technology consultancy focused on nonprofits and small businesses. He also serves on several area boards and commissions, including the Towerside Business Alliance, University District Alliance, and TCF Bank Stadium.
Tracy is founder of Verve, a placemaking consultancy, where she works as writer, researcher, storyteller, facilitator, convener of conversations, strategist, and change agent. She is driven by a love of cities and champions individuals and ideas that create vibrant communities. Tracy led Post Script Gardens, a garden design firm, for 25 years and served 4 years as elected Commissioner on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, including 2 years as Vice President of the Board and Chair of the Comprehensive Plan. She holds a BA from Middlebury College and a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from the Humphrey School. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Think Small, advancing quality early learning for Minnesota’s children.
Shauen is the Director of Economic Development and Inclusion Policy for Mayor Jacob Frey of the City of Minneapolis. She has served on the Blue Line Coalition and Saint Paul Innovation Cabinet. Shauen previously served as the Director of the Center Cities Competitiveness Initiative with GREATER MSP, Executive Director of the Harrison Neighborhood Association and Director of Programs with New York based Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Karl is Executive Director for Textile Center, a national center for fiber art based in the heart of the Towerside Innovation District in Minneapolis. Since November 2014, Karl has led Textile Center into an era of revitalization and artistic advancement. Previously he served as the Director of the Capri Theater for Plymouth Christian Youth Center in North Minneapolis (2007-2014), and he began his arts career with the Minnesota Orchestra, where he served as its Director of Public Affairs from (1992 to 2001), and then worked as an arts marketing and public relations consultant from 2001 to 2007.
Catherine Reid Day
Catherine is the Founder of Storyslices LLC, a communications and leadership development company that uses the power of stories to make productive transitions and improve performance. She is co-founder and board chair of the Creative Enterprise Zone which focuses on community-driven development and is located mid-city between St Paul and Minneapolis. It’s a recognized center of creativity and enterprise, a place where people make a living by their creative capacities. She worked for PRI and developed programs including ‘Marketplace’ and ‘The World.’ She co-produced the public television series ‘Mental Engineering’ and served as VP for Macalester, Carleton Colleges and the Minnesota Children’s Museum.
Diane is the Executive Director of University Enterprise Labs, an incubator for early-stage startups. She has held leadership roles in innovation, design, product management, operations, and technology transfer. Her experience includes a collaboration with MIT’s Center for Entrepreneurship and regional ecosystem work in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Diane has an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management, an M.S. in Materials Science from the University of Michigan, and a B.S. in Materials Engineering from MIT. She also served as the VP of Client Services for Carrot Health and held senior positions with Seagate and General Motors.
Tracey is the Deputy Executive Director at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority which provides low-income housing and assistance for over 12,000 families and seniors. A newcomer to the Twin Cities, Tracey most recently worked with the Atlanta Housing Authority to create innovative affordable housing and homelessness programs. Her professional experience ranges from technology consulting to strategy positions with AT&T and Visa. She is currently a board member of Patelco Credit Union, and has served in leadership positions with various community, environmental and professional organizations.
Virajita is Assistant Vice Provost at University of Minnesota’s Office of Equity and Diversity. She is also a Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota, leading CSBR’s sustainable Design for Community Resilience program that engages graduate design students to assist Minnesota communities interested in taking sustainable and regenerative design action. She is a LEED AP and Adjunct Faculty in the College of Design. She is also a Board Member of the arts non-profit COMPAS, and volunteers at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Bob is a commercial real estate attorney practicing with McGrann Shea Carnival Straughn & Lamb, Chartered. His experience has included legal work with major office and retail projects in the Twin Cities and hospital and healthcare projects throughout the country. He also has professional experience as a civil and environmental engineer. He has held leadership positions with a variety of community and charitable organizations, and currently serves as a vice-chancellor in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota.
Makeda Zulu-Gillespie is the Director of Community Outreach at the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC). Transforming how communities and universities work together to address issues in the urban core is why she joined this innovation. Her work with the Trauma Recovery Project, Mortgage Foreclosure and the Young Women’s Initiative are indicative of the value of engaging community as co leaders in research. She co-chairs the UROC Community Affairs Leadership Roundtable, responds to community inquiries, represents UROC at community forums, and develops activities to strengthen long-term partnerships between the University and community members.
Partners + Stakeholders
Towerside is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed as an intentional partnership of non-profit and government agencies, higher education, community residents, businesses, and developers.
- Blue Cross and BlueShield of Minnesota
- CenterPoint Energy
- Central Funders Collaborative
- City of Minneapolis
- City of Saint Paul
- The Cornerstone Group
- Creative Enterprise Zone
- Dorsey & Whitney LLP
- Ever-Green Energy
- Family Housing Fund
- Greater MSP
- Hennepin County
- McKnight Foundation
- Metropolitan Design Center
- Minneapolis Public Housing
- Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
- Mississippi Watershed
- Management Organization
- Prospect Park 2020
- Prospect Park Association
- Prospect Park Properties
- Ramsey County
- Surly Brewing
- St. Anthony Park
- Community Council
- Trust for Public Land
- Twin Cities Community Land Bank
- ULI Minnesota
- University Enterprise Laboratories
- University of Minnesota Foundation Real Estate Advisors
- United Properties
- The Wall Companies
- Xcel Energy
A Place Like No Other
Towerside is a city-within-the-Twin Cities. Its chief assets—as the old real estate joke goes—are location, location, location. The Innovation District, situated at the hub of all Twin Cities transportation networks, is also a stone’s throw from both a renowned research university—home to 19 Nobel Prize winners in science and economics through the years—and a major medical school. It’s located at the heart of an economically and culturally dynamic metropolitan area that punches above its weight in the global arena. No other place enjoys similar advantages.Location