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Cronen’s adventures in real estate: Realtor new to area has plans for hotels, developments

Press Photo by Virginia Grantier Realtor Catherine Renee Cronen said that since relocating from Fargo and starting an agency out of her home in Richardton, she and her husband, Paul Cronen, have assisted with hotel projects in the Dickinson area and also the proposed 283-acre Barons Vista shopping mall and residential development that would be located south of Interstate 94 near Exit 59.

Catherine Renee Cronen says she learned something crucial from her childhood of riding and showing horses, and from having parents who won trainer and owner-of-the-year awards in Minnesota — and who still, in their late 70s, take their thoroughbreds to Canterbury Park race track and spend summers working daily in the barn.

“Diligence, longevity to something makes you a winner,” said Cronen, a Realtor and owner of a new home-based realty business in Richardton. “(It’s about) not giving up. … If you fall off, you get back up.”

Cronen, owner of Cronen Catherine Renee Agency — yes, last name first — said she has had many challenges in her realty career that spans 20-plus years and decided she wanted some more. She settled on western North Dakota. She was commuting so much from Fargo because of all of the work and prospects in the Dickinson area that she and her husband, Paul, decided to move this way.

“We’re both a little adventurous and we wanted to see what (would) happen,” said Cronen, who has four grown children and 10 grandchildren.

What has happened is Cronen, who specializes in finding land for major commercial projects, and her husband, who is a hotel-management consultant, found land for and gave guidance to developers of two hotels that will break ground this spring in the Dickinson area, she said. But because a formal announcement hasn’t been made about them, she declined to give details.

She also worked on getting land for the recently announced Barons Vista, a proposed 283-acre retail, commercial and residential project that is scheduled for a May 21 zoning hearing in front of the Dickinson Planning & Zoning Commission. The developer, Barons Group, a Singapore-based company, is currently constructing a Holiday Inn Express-type hotel in Killdeer called Barons Lodge.

Cronen said she’s not doing real estate the traditional way — hanging out a shingle and opening an office. She works from her Richardton home, fielding calls from all over the world, she said. But there are reasons close by to leave home. Cronen calls Richardton a “darling town,” and is a runner who loves the exercise center that’s free for community members.

Cronen, a broker who oversaw her own company and five agents in Willmar, Minn., sold that in 2002. She later worked as the broker for Lexstar Construction & Commercial Real Estate in Fargo. She said it was an exciting chapter for her as Lexstar was the builder of some of that city’s most prestigious buildings, such as the city’s “most beautiful by far hotel” — the Ramada Plaza Suites & Convention Center.

Cronen, who grew up in central Minnesota, said she went to college not thinking about a real estate career. Her idea was to get a business administration degree from Southwest Minnesota State University — to get solid business skills and a secure desk job.

“It makes me cringe to think about it,” she said about spending life in a desk job.

Instead, while in college, she started studying real estate — in addition to acquiring that business degree — and knew right away that’s what she wanted to do.

“It’s about creating wealth, long-term financial security. … It isn’t something that pays you back right away,” she said.

One rental property she bought eventually paid for a son’s college education.

Through the years, a passion of hers has been starting organizations and programs.

She established a post-prom event while a daughter was in high school, an adult Christian education program at her church and also started “Soul Sisters,” a group that still is active many years later. In it, members of various religions share their views so everyone can “learn and understand other religions,” she said.

Her husband says that she tries “to create things, even when there is nothing there to create,” Catherine Cronen shared.

“(I) guess that’s what optimism is,” she said.

Cronen said she hits “the floor every morning with anticipation and wonder what I can accomplish today.”

Cronen, who also has worked on grants in the past to start a drug and alcohol prevention program, said one thing she hopes to do here is to find grants to help unemployed military veterans — in particular “wounded warriors.”

She said this area has plenty of jobs and hopes to work on grants that will help vets obtain affordable housing here. Part of the Barons Vista project is to construct hundreds of affordable homes, she said.