For the past several years, downtown Minneapolis has seen healthy condominium construction and commercial growth. That's been especially evident in the area near the new Twins ballpark.
But the souring economy has muted the development boom. The economy has also had a similar impact in the east side of downtown near the Metrodome.
On a map, there may only be one downtown Minneapolis, but for the sake of this story let's split it into two parts -- east and west.
The west side includes the Target Center, the warehouse district, Hennepin Avenue and the skyscrapers which make up the central business district.
We'll start out story here because it's the sexy side of downtown.
"Of the downtown neighborhoods, I think the North Loop is probably the youngest, hippest neighborhood," said Fritz Kroll who lives and works in the warehouse district.
As a realtor, Kroll keeps close track of the ups and downs of development in the neighborhood.
Kroll credits the promise of a new Twins ballpark with driving the early condo boom of a few years ago. He says the market began to slowdown in 2007 and 2008 was a tough year. But with Target Field nearing completion, Kroll says 2009 is looking up.
"The ballpark, I think combined with the train station, has really become a nice anchor in the neighborhood," he explained. "Sales at the top of our marketing materials for 730 Lofts, we always say, 'Live near the new ballpark.'"
But there are still signs of the continued sluggish economy.
Commercial developer Hines International has an option to buy land right next door to the new Twins Ballpark, but has yet to act on it.
In 2007 they presented their plans to develop the area which right now are surface parking lots.
The plan, called North Loop Village, would add a hotel, residential housing, commerical office space and retail.
Kroll speculates that problems with the credit market have made it hard for many developers to get funding. A city official says the North Loop Village plan is under environmental review.
A call to Hines was not returned.
Now we'll shift our focus to the east side of the city, which is marked by two prominent features -- the Metrodome and the surrounding asphalt lake of surface parking lots.
The credit market slowdown has also had an impact on development here. The Minnesota Vikings's plans to raze the Metrodome and build a new stadium and other developments have been put on hold.
"They really put it on the backburner," said David Fields who works for Elliot Park Neighborhood Incorporated. "Apparently it isn't out of the question, but the current market wasn't inviting it."
For the past 11 years, Fields job has involved reviewing development plans for projects on the east side of downtown.
He says there are several reasons why Downtown East has been slower to develop. For example, for a long time land around the dome was zoned for industrial, not commercial development.
"And so I always compare the Metrodome as a giant flying saucer that landed and scared all the indigenous life away," he said.
Besides the dome, Fields says the other thing that's stood in the way are all the surface parking lots.
There are nine blocks within the vicinity of the dome that are primarily surface parking. Fields says the lots sprang up after people and businesses left the downtown core during a period of urban flight several decades ago.
The lots are cash cows for their owners. They require little overhead and bring in lots of money and Fields says owners are reluctant to sell them to developers.
"I can't tell you how many developers that I talk to, who come in and have said, 'We can't do that they're asking too much money. It's a lot easier to go up to the North Loop, buy an old warehouse and redevelop that.'"
Fields says there are still lots of development plans in the works.
Hennepin County Medical Center wants to expand.
The city has targeted Chicago Avenue as a lifesciences corridor. The street runs from Downtown East to south Minneapolis. It's the site of both Allina and Children's Hospitals and a possible streetcar route.
City officials say they want to use federal stimulus money to help private commercial projects bogged down by the bad credit market.