by Dan Rafter
Todd Lee believes in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market. So do his fellow executives at Fargo, North Dakota-based Bell State Bank & Trust. It’s why the bank recently purchased the 15-story Northland Plaza office tower in the Twin Cities suburb of Bloomington.
The well-known office complex – it’s a familiar site to commuters traveling Interstate-494 just south of Minneapolis/St. Paul – will now serve as Bell State Bank & Trust’s Twin Cities’ hub as the area bank expands its commercial lending, banking, mortgage and wealth-management businesses in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul market.
Lee, executive vice president and Twin Cities managing director for Bell State Bank & Trust, said that the owners of the North Dakota-based bank recognized that expanding the financial institution’s market share in Minneapolis/St. Paul was key to their company’s continued growth. Bell State Bank & Trust has already carved out a market share of about 35 percent in its key service areas of Fargo; Moorhead, North Dakota; and northwestern Minnesota.
The bank’s leaders decided that it would be difficult to continue growing their market share in those areas when it was already so high. So Bell State officials targeted the Twin Cities’ market as the most logical area for future growth.
“The vision is to grow a regional bank that is still headquartered in Fargo but has a significant hub of activity in the Twin Cities,” Lee said. “We are still very much in the early stages of this organic growth project in the Twin Cities. We think that this location will help us continue to build our brand and keep the positive momentum going for us in the Twin Cities.”
With the purchase of Northland Plaza, Bell State Bank & Trust now operates three key locations in the Twin Cities market: There’s the new space in Bloomington, but also a location in Golden Valley in the Colonnade building and a full-service bank in nearby Woodbury.
“We are very committed to growing here,” Lee said.
Bell State completed its purchase of the 15-story Northland Plaza with the help of Fargo-based Sterling Real Estate Trust. The building, at 3800 American Blvd. W. in Bloomington, is one of the most iconic office properties in the Twin Cities’ suburbs.
Lee said that Bell State officials are not yet sure how many employees will work from the building or how much space the bank will take up. That’s because there simply aren’t that many vacancies in the property. Lee said that this is a testament to how desirable the building is.
“For a Class-A office building in the suburbs, the Northland Plaza certainly stands out,” Lee said. “It is definitely one of the more recognizable buildings in the suburban market. The people who, like me, sit in that commute on I-494 certainly know that building. The way the road curves, it looks like the building sits in the middle of the interstate. Since we’ve made the announcement that we have bought the building, our employees have certainly been excited. They know where the building is and they are looking forward to working in it.”
Bell State Bank & Trust’s move in the Twin Cities market actually began in 2011. That’s when the bank purchased Bell Mortgage, which had been an independent residential mortgage company. About a year after this move, Lee joined the company and was charged with establishing for the first time in the bank’s history a full-service bank in the Twin Cities.
“When we started direct-lending in the Twin Cities about three-and-a-half years ago, most people we met with knew and loved our mortgage business but had never heard about our bank,” Lee said. “We are working hard to tell our story and build our brand one customer at a time, and we’re proud of the traction we’ve gained in the market in a relatively short time. But we know we’re still in the early stages of our growth here in the Twin Cities and surrounding region.”