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Floating condo concept brings St. Paul river lifestyle to market

Living on the water--really on the water--has been a way of life for David Nelson and his wife Renae since they moved into a houseboat on St. Paul's Mississippi riverfront almost 23 years ago. Over that time, they've shared the floating life with a few river neighbors, but now they've got plans to share its charms and challenges with many more.

Nelson, a building contractor and developer, has embarked on a renewed marketing push for a project he calls River Cities: housing 300 or more people in condos on a barge-sized boat that's specially built to ply the nation's extensive inland waterways system.

Nelson has been working on the concept for more than five years (full time for three), and figures the market for an adventurous way of living, especially for retirees, may be ripe now. "People are sick of this perpetual staycation that we're in," he says.

Plans are for two 300-by-54-foot boats, each five stories in height, that could travel together or separately. With sufficient commitments for condos ranging in price from $299,000$499,000, Nelson could have his first condo-bearing boats built in as little as 18 months.

A big part of River Cities' appeal is the kind of proximity to nature that the Nelsons have enjoyed in St. Paul. They've also found a sense of community on St. Paul's houseboat docks (nine boats when they moved in, a city maximum of 25 now) that they hope to replicate on a bigger scale with River Cities. "Boaters look out for each other," Nelson says.

Source: David Nelson, River Cities, Inc.
Writer: Chris Steller
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