Making a Difference in Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota

I want to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your visit to Minnesota and for conducting this in-depth study. The CRE Consulting Corps team’s expertise, dedication, and insightful analysis are instrumental in shedding light on crucial housing dynamics within our community. Your willingness to delve into the details, engage with local stakeholders, and provide comprehensive recommendations truly exemplifies your commitment to making a positive impact.” 
Dolly Matten, Executive Director, Greater Lakes Association of REALTORS®

“We were very fortunate to host the Counselors in the Brainerd Lakes region,” said Brainerd HRA Executive Director, Eric Charpentier. “They heard from a diverse array of local leaders and presented the real estate analytics we needed. Their feedback and strategies will be useful as we move forward with implementation. We will continue to pull nuggets out of the report as we work to ensure that we provide housing needed for local families, businesses, and workers.”

Clients: The City of Brainerd, with population of approximately 14,500, is located 130 miles northwest of Minneapolis-St. Paul in Crow Wing County. Pequot Lakes, 22 miles north of Brainerd, has a population of approximately 2,600 people. The Greater Lakes Association of Realtors® (GLAR) is made up of more than 700 Realtor® members serving central Minnesota. The Brainerd HRA provides affordable housing in Brainerd and Crow Wing County. Through Transforming Neighborhoods, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) partnered with The Counselors of Real Estate® Consulting Corps and issued a call for proposals for strategic real estate problem solving. The project submitted by the GLAR® in conjunction with the Cities of Brainerd and Pequot Lakes and the Brainerd HRA was selected. 

Challenge: The Counselors of Real Estate Consulting Corps was asked to assist the Cities of Brainerd and Pequot Lakes by identifying opportunities and outlining action steps that could lead to increased housing production to meet local needs. The Brainerd Lakes area’s status as a vacation destination, home to numerous lakes and lakefront properties, increases area housing prices. Not only do local markets indicate demand for increased housing options, but employers report housing as a key barrier to recruitment to fill open positions. That is, housing is impeding economic growth 

Assessment: In August 2023 the Consulting Corps team visited the Brainerd Lakes region, toured the area, examined market data, reviewed prior plans, and interviewed more than 30 stakeholders including elected and appointed officials, community representatives, developers, business leaders, representatives of the REALTORS® and other stakeholders.  

Findings and Recommendations:
The team toured a number of sites and heard about several others – which present housing development opportunities. The report summarizes these by product type and income level. Across the following development sites, the team estimates approximately 535 homes can come to market: 

  1. Heart of the Good Life in Pequot Lakes 
  2. Trailside Park Site in Brainerd 
  3. Trailside Estates in Pequot Lakes 
  4. Treehouse Site in Pequot Lakes 
  5. County Road 11 Site in Pequot Lakes 
  6. Fire Tower Site in Pequot Lakes 
  7. Thrifty White Drug Site in Brainerd 

For the community to maximize this opportunity, the team presents the following recommendations:  

  • Establish an ombudsman to assist the developer and facilitate public-private partnerships. 
  • Learn from Perham, MN, where the community is using incentives, including tax increment financing, effectively, to generate housing production that meets the needs of local working families.  
  • Preserve and enhance the existing housing stock through a rehabilitation program for legacy homes. 
  • Reduce regulatory barriers and streamline the development process to make it easier and more cost-effective for developers to build more homes. Consider waiving fees and assisting with infrastructure costs to create affordable homes. 
  • Utilize housing innovations, such as Accessory Dwelling Units, Modular/Prefabricated Construction, Passive House/NetZero, and 3D Printing. Co-housing and Tiny Homes/smaller homes are also strategies to bring down cost/prices. 
  • Keep the focus on a limited number of priority developments, and ensure that these projects come to fruition with strategic, deliberate, proactive planning and follow-through.  
  • Keep Brainerd cool. Recent efforts have been successful in improving downtown Brainerd. Keep the momentum going.  

By focusing on these priority opportunities, proactively engaging partners, experimenting with innovative tools and products, and leveraging resources, Brainerd and Pequot Lakes can set the stage for private developers or public-private partnerships to lead increased housing to maximum public benefit. 

“The team assembled for this Consulting Corps assignment was top-notch. It was great to pull together a group of highly experienced Counselors who each brought their tremendous backgrounds and dedication to assist the Brainerd and Pequot Lakes communities. As in recent years, the issue of housing supply surfaced among The Counselors’ Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate, and I’m pleased that we could bring the CRE Consulting Corps to offer action steps for the local communities to implement in response to this critical challenge.”
Brett Pelletier, CRE, Team Leader

Team: The team was led by Brett Pelletier, CRE, Boston, MA. Panelists were Mary Bujold, CRE, Roseville, MN; Neil Madsen, CRE, New York, NY; and Mark Reiling, CRE, Minneapolis, MN.

Does your community, university, or local nonprofit need help with a real estate challenge?
For more information or to refer a project to the CRE Consulting Corps, please contact
Samantha DeKoven (312-329-8431;