Jim Crockarell, a prominent real estate developer and a significant figure in downtown St. Paul, passed away at the age of 79.
Initially from Clarksville, Tennessee, Crockarell made St. Paul his home, leaving a lasting impact on the city’s architectural landscape while often clashing with local authorities, Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.
Starting his career at Ellerbe Becket in the 1970s, Crockarell ventured into real estate in the early 1980s, beginning with residential properties in St. Paul’s Ramsey Hill neighborhood. Over the years, he expanded his portfolio through Madison Equities, eventually holding stakes in around 32 buildings, including iconic downtown office spaces and converted residential properties.
Crockarell’s investments extended beyond real estate, positioning him as a landlord for trendy restaurants and entertainment venues in the city. Notable establishments like Noyes & Cutler, the Handsome Hog, and Gray Duck Tavern were among those under his ownership.
Throughout his career, Crockarell engaged in numerous disputes with various entities, including St. Paul City Hall, labor groups, and business partners. He was known for his outspoken criticism of downtown policies, particularly regarding issues like crime prevention and urban development strategies.
Despite his conflicts, Crockarell remained committed to enhancing downtown St. Paul’s vitality. He often advocated for the city’s growth and actively pursued opportunities to revitalize its commercial landscape. His ability to acquire downtown properties at advantageous prices, coupled with his vision for urban development, made him a notable figure in the local business community.
However, Crockarell’s legacy was not without controversy. His company, Madison Equities, faced legal challenges related to labor practices, including allegations of wage violations by security guards. Despite legal battles, Crockarell continued to navigate the complexities of urban development in St. Paul.
Concerns about the future of downtown St. Paul lingered as Crockarell expressed uncertainty regarding the occupancy of major commercial spaces, such as the U.S. Bank Center. He emphasized the importance of attracting employees back to downtown in the wake of the pandemic-induced shift towards remote work.
In his passing, Jim Crockarell leaves behind a mixed legacy in downtown St. Paul, remembered for his contributions to the city’s architectural heritage and his sometimes contentious approach to urban development. His impact on the local real estate scene and his role as a downtown advocate will be remembered by many in the St. Paul community.
— Ted Glanzer