An Ambitious Vision Transforms A Downtown Neighborhood

October 22, 2014

Standing amid a group of journalists in one of many unsightly parking lots on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, I wondered whether my colleagues shared my skepticism.

It was May 2013, and we were huddled around then-mayor R.T. Rybak, who was trumpeting plans for a $400 million redevelopment of the five-block area, complete with multiple office buildings, retail spaces, apartments, parking structures and more. The plan was being touted as “one of the largest redevelopments in Minneapolis history,” as a construction firm unveiled colorful computerized renderings of a reimagined “Downtown East.”

Scanning my surroundings, it was tough to imagine. Save for the Star Tribune’s offices, the property was nothing but a spattering of parking lots that play host to tailgaters a few days a year. And it wasn’t long before that we’d learned the nearby Metrodome – then still inflated in all its billowy glory – would be demolished to make room for a shiny new $1 billion stadium.

Nine months later, on a brisk February morning, I watched the Dome explode. (Fast-forward to the 1:00 mark, if you can’t stand the suspense.)

Soon, massive construction cranes began blotting the sky, at the stadium site and throughout the surrounding area. The New York Times would soon describe the sprawling construction zone as a “blueprint for a bustling downtown.”

Today, “Downtown East” is unrecognizable. I live on the southern edge of the neighborhood, and I walk through the maze each morning on my way to work, questioning why I haven’t invested in a hard hat.

Cranes tower over the site of the new Vikings stadium

Cranes tower over the site of the new Vikings stadium

An up-close view of the stadium construction

An up-close view of the stadium construction

One of multiple office towers being built in "Downtown East"

One of multiple office towers being built in “Downtown East”

Leaving debates about publicly funded stadiums, urban density and other development issues aside, the transformation of Downtown East serves as a stark reminder that huge ideas can quickly become huge realities.

And that same lesson plays out every day at Fast Horse, where I’m making major strides in my transition from wide-eyed tourist to trusted local.

P.S. While all the Downtown East action is just a stone’s throw from Fast Horse’s temporary digs, I’m getting excited about all the progress on our stylish new home, on the other end of downtown Minneapolis.