Edina Real Estate Community Raises Funds for St. Thomas University

St. Thomas University fundraising project featured in Edina’s Parade of Homes.
Jeff Schoenwetter of JMS Custom Homes donates his services to the University of St. Thomas education house in Edina.

With two days to go before Thanksgiving last year, the team of builders from JMS Custom Homes worked diligently to set the roof trusses on an Edina home that won’t just benefit a family, but, hopefully, the next generation of real estate leaders.

Earlier last year, the University of St. Thomas Real Estate Advisory Board determined it needed to raise money to create a better educational experience and increase the number of scholarships offered for students. The board quickly came up with the ultimate fundraising plan for its Shenehon Center for Real Estate programs: build and sell a house that would generate funding and serve as a learning tool.

Today, the 5,900-square-foot house—designed by Wayzata-based Alexander Design Group—stands tall in its Spring 2014 Parade of Homes debut at 6443 McCauley Terrace in Edina. Lead builder Jeff Schoenwetter of JMS Custom Homes has worked alongside his wife, Nancy, in home construction for more than 28 years. Schoenwetter, the project’s mastermind and a board member at St. Thomas, donated his services to see the house come to life. For Schoenwetter and Shenehon Center director Herb Tousley, the project’s completion exemplifies not only solid architectural and interior design, but serves as evidence of the recovering real estate industry.

Though the real estate crisis spurred by the Great Recession devastated home values and cost jobs, Tousley is optimistic about the field’s future. Each of the Shenehon Center’s three programs has seen an enrollment increase over the last five years, despite the tumultuous business landscape.

To bring students into the Edina home project, the board chose two standout undergraduate students to act as general contractors throughout the entire building process. It’s essentially a real estate internship—as hands-on as it comes.

“The key is learning about the behind-the-scenes action that they might not think about in the classroom,” Tousley says.

Unlike stereotypical internships as a glorified “go-fer,” these interns had the opportunity to be seen and heard by contributing on a larger scale. Interns were challenged and entrusted with important responsibilities. Most notably, when the time came for the board to appear before the city for a zoning variance, the interns lobbied on behalf of the entire team.

“It’s rewarding to see the students be so involved,” Tousley says. “I think it’s been a real eye-opener for them.”

The project has a target price between $1.6 million and $1.75 million, and a fundraising goal of at least $250,000. Tousley credits much of the project’s success to the generosity of Crown Bank of Edina and its CEO, Peter Dahl. Dahl provided the previously foreclosed lot at a reduced value.

“Without [Crown  Bank’s] generosity, the effort and work of Jeff and the leadership of our advisory board, we never would have gotten this thing off the ground,” Tousley says.

Like any other project that JMS Custom Homes undertakes, Schoenwetter works diligently to provide quality services.

“We believe in creating value for our customers, and in today’s real estate market, value is incredibly important,” he says. “Housing is one of the largest investments my clients make for their family. We create a safe environment for those folks to make that investment.”

Though investing in an education is different from buying a house, the Shenehon Center for Real Estate also understands that its programs are important investments. Whether you’re interested in a non-degree course of study or an undergraduate or graduate degree, professors teach all areas of real estate, from finance to construction management. With this project off the ground, says Tousley, future students can expect a greater emphasis on immersive learning in the years to come, too.

Visit the home’s grand opening at Edina’s 2014 Parade of Homes celebration March 1-30.