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Thomas Bray, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
Thomas Bray, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP

The POWER 30: Thomas Bray

TTaft Stettinius & Hollister traces itself back to 1885. One of the founders died in 1923.

In the following year, a young firm headed by Robert A. Taft (who later became a U.S. Senator) and Charles P. Taft II, sons of former President William Howard Taft, joined the older firm to become Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. In 2020, Taft joined with Minnesota firm Briggs and Morgan, and now has 675 lawyers.

So it’s likely that partner Thomas Bray is exceedingly modest when he describes his law practice as “whatever comes in the door.” Actually, that means his practice is diverse, following more than 30 years of experience representing both corporate and individual clients in all types of real estate acquisition, financing, development and sale transactions. He also has significant experience in the acquisition and development of land for commercial, residential and mixed- use condominium and planned community projects, including condominium conversions.

It also means that he works with attorneys across the Taft firm to serve a variety of clients.

It’s still a good time for residential and commercial real estate, Bray said. Some buyers feel a need to beat interest rate hikes, and rumor has it that it is picking up again. But it is the perceived movement in the rates that drives the market, he said. When there is volatility in the market the action tends to slow down, he said.

Industrial development has been hot, which Bray attributes to “the Amazon mood of retail. The repurposing of retail property is ongoing.” But the office space market outlook is very unclear, he said.

One area dispute that is affecting real estate development is the ongoing litigation, started in 2013, about the level of White Bear Lake. The lake has supplied water to area wells and the future water supply to the area is worrisome, Bray said. “We’re not used to worrying about access to water,” he said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said this winter that court-ordered protections of White Bear Lake would force drastic reductions at homes and cut off service to almost all nonresidential users within five miles of the lake. But Ramsey County District Court Judge Margaret Marrinan said in a recent order that is incorrect.

“For clarity, nothing in the court’s prior orders prohibits municipalities with water appropriation permits from furnishing water to nondomestic users such as hospitals, grocery stores, public services or other commercial or industrial uses,” she wrote.