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ST. PAUL-For Downtown office building owners, there’s no place like home. Facing a soft office market, many of these landlords are converting their older office buildings to Downtown housing units.

“More and more, Downtown St. Paul is becoming a place that people want to live in, work in, and watch grow,” according to a recent report on the market from the St. Paul Area Building Owners and Managers Association.

New residential construction and conversions of distinctive older buildings into housing are bringing new residents to the area. Among the significant projects, according to St. Paul BOMA, are:

• The Rossmor Building, where conversion to more than 100 units is under way, a project at 500 N. Robert by PAK Properties; • The Straus Knittting Company building, where nearly 50 loft-style apartments are being created at 350 Sibley St. plus 7,000 sf of commercial space on the ground floor; and • The Great Northern Lofts at 281 East Kellogg Blvd. are building 53 luxury condominiums in the seven-story, 121,000-sf former headquarters for Great Northern Railroad.

Meanwhile, new construction includes the 590-unit Upper Landing project along the banks of the Mississippi River just upstream from Downtown.

More than 430,420 sf of office space is already being turned into housing and another 308,000 sf is on the planning boards. If all the projects go through, they would shrink the amount of competitive office space in the city by 7.9%, taking some 738,428 sf off the market, the St. Paul BOMA report says.

The condominium conversion projects helped push class C office vacancy rates down from 29.9% last year to 22.4% this year, according to the report.

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