Working with clients while building a residency in a historical neighborhood.
From its beginning, Hopkins, Minnesota-based Frana Companies had a goal to the be the best in the business. Established in 1977 by Gary Frana, the company has used its 35 years of experience to make that goal a reality. Today, Peter Donnino, who joined the firm in 1983 as a project coordinator, is president and CEO. Sticking to Frana’s original goal, Donnino believes in creating innovative ways to deliver the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost. Throughout the years, the company has managed a variety of projects, ranging from 15-story poured concrete condominium towers to 300 unit townhome communities to complex interior renovations. Its dedication to high quality extends to its entire list of clients— developers, business owners, corporations, religious groups and government agencies—and to its employees.
“What I’m most proud of is being able to work for a company with the determination and care to build such great buildings for developers that have that same determination and care,” says Justin Noah, a project manager for Frana. “We have a lot of repeat business from the same clients and that says a lot about Frana Companies and all of our employees.”
The company’s decision to stay at a size where its top people could continue to work side-by-side with its clients in a lasting partnership has contributed to its high percentage of repeat customers. Long after projects are completed, the original managers and superintendents remain available.
“We hire and train our project managers that start out at our wall plant as a project engineer and move into project management,” says Noah. “We have very little turnover company wide. Many of our field Superintendents have been with Frana since day one and retire as a Frana employee.”
Recently, Noah began work on his largest project ever for Frana, the Longfellow Station in south Minneapolis. This residency will add 180 units to the city’s housing mix, with 80 percent of those going to tenants who need affordable housing.
“The soil situation was a big question,” says Noah. “No one really knew what was under the old building until we started building. It was a different ownership during the demolition of the existing building so that added some challenges.”
The $28.5 million project has been meeting deadlines and will be opening for residency November 2013 with a fitness room, theater room,
community/party room, bike shop and pet care facilities. The site was chosen because of its center location in the Longfellow Neighborhood, with many of its features geared towards the neighborhood and its history. “The art feature that is being put in will have many of the neighborhood historical elements to it,” says Noah.
The project has won recognition from Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, who awarded it with a Best in Real Estate award in the “Multifamily Development or Redevelopment-Affordable” category. What has really made the project stand out, however, is Frana’s strength in partnering with everyone involved.
“We have brought over 35 years of this type of housing into this development,” says Noah. “We worked closely with the architect, owner and engineers to make this project what it is.”
Recognized as a major builder of privately financed and governmentfunded multifamily housing, Frana has directed the construction of more
than 15,000 multifamily units representing over $1 billion in construction volume across the Upper Midwest. The company believes that every project needs senior staff and puts a high priority on developing ongoing relationships with its subcontractors. Its carefully chosen subcontractors play a major role in project production. It is a relationship in which the subcontractors trust that Frana has anticipated every situation, enabling them to do their jobs without a hitch. The company credits this as one of its keys to success well into the future.
“Learn all you can about the buildings, from the dirt work, to concrete, to framing, to finishing,” says Noah. “The more you know, the more you see potential problems coming ahead of time so they are dealt with before they become real problems.”