The Mill District in Minneapolis Offers High-End Loft-Style Living. The area, in the city’s downtown, has culture and green space galore.
Once the world’s largest center for producing wheat flour, the Mill District, which sits by the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, is an urban regeneration success story.
During the 19th century, the wheat milling industry was centered along the Mississippi’s western banks, which is now the site of the neighborhood. By the mid-20th century the industry had moved out of the city and its buildings were abandoned and left to rot.
Then in the 1990s, after it was earmarked as a place with development potential, the renovation of its decaying behemoths started, providing much-needed new city-center homes, while revitalizing the downtown area. As a result, population growth in downtown Minneapolis has soared, increasing from 31,844 in 2006 to 49,721 in 2018, according to the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
Today, the area is known for its grand industrial architecture, riverside parks and expensive loft-style homes that appeal to empty nesters who previously lived in the city suburbs. And when the Eleven development, a 42-story riverside condo tower is built in the district, it will be home to the city’s tallest tower and some of its most high-end homes.
Measuring just three blocks by nine blocks, the Mill District, or Mills District as it is known locally, is a small sliver of land in the Downtown East neighborhood. The area’s western edge runs along the banks of the Mississippi River. Third Avenue marks its northern boundary, Washington Avenue is on the western edge and 12th Avenue makes up its southern border.
A one-bedroom condo can cost anywhere from between $400,000 and $550,000 to a cool million depending on square footage, building, and view. The majority of homes in the neighborhood sell for between $700,000 and $1.8 million, while top-end homes trade anywhere from $2 million and $6+ million. When Eleven on the River is finished, this record will be broken.
The district’s most expensive resale was sold in 2016. The 4,300-square-foot two-bedroom condo penthouse was bought for $6.3 million by the Pohlad family, who own the Minnesota Twins baseball team.
The market has experienced steady growth over the past five years.
The area’s huge former mills have been converted into loft-style apartments. New condominium and rental buildings stand on the sites of old parking lots. Most developments include gyms, secure parking, balconies and communal terraces.
Homes in converted industrial buildings with original features are the most sought-after. Whitney Lofts, a former hotel on the riverfront, which was originally a flour mill built in 1879, and North Star Lofts, which was the site of the North Star Woolen Company’s textile mill, where wool blankets were produced, are always in demand.
Washburn Lofts, built in 1914 and converted into lofts in the 2000s, is popular too, as is the 36-unit Humboldt Lofts, which is made up of old and new structures and has views of the river, a rooftop deck, community room and ground-floor restaurant.
Due to its small footprint and mostly low-density housing, finding a home for sale here is not easy. New condos are in short supply, and when they do come on the market they sell quickly. For example, Legacy Lofts, a 374-unit condo development bordering Gold Medal, is still under construction, but more than 80% of the homes have sold.
Additionally, there is not a huge turnover of stock, and many residents come to stay. And there are a lot of reasons to stay in this neighborhood.
The neighborhood’s top dining offerings includes Sea Change, a modern bistro serving sustainably sourced fish dishes; A new concept restaurant partnership between Birchwood Cafe and The Minnesota Farmers Union, a healthy eating restaurant which sits on a plaza opposite the Guthrie Theater; Izakaya, a Japanese bar and kitchen; and so many more.
Milwaukee Road Depot, a historic railroad depot and parking lot complex which shut down in the 1970s, was reused as a skating rink and water park in the 1990s and has since been turned into the two hotels, the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot—which features an events space called Milwaukee Road—and the Residence Inn Minneapolis Downtown at Depot.
There are no luxury goods shops, but the neighborhood has a posh bookshop and cafe, Milkweed Books, and is half a mile from the shopping area of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. It is two miles from the trendy North Loop area, which has many clothing shops and curated home furnishings stores.
Culture abounds at the Jean Nouvel-designed Guthrie Theater, a center for performances and education. The nearby ruined Washburn "A" Mill now houses the Mill City Museum, the illuminated Gold Medal Flour sign and MacPhail Center for Music, all of which overlook St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge.
Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, which owns the parks along the riverfront, is opening a riverside restaurant next year run by The Sioux Chef, an indigenous food education and catering team.
In addition, there are plenty of places to run, walk and cycle along the river. The Mill Ruins Park shows the ruins of several flour mills and other industrial relics, while the 7.5-acre Gold Medal Park, which features a large mound with a spiral walkway, offers a relaxing green space. It hosts free yoga sessions and is ideal for dog walking.
The Minnesota Vikings football team plays at the U.S Bank Stadium, just steps away, built in 2016. In 2018, it hosted the Super Bowl LII.
The Fair School, which has a campus in downtown Minneapolis and is about 1.5 miles from the Mills District, is for students from kindergarten to 12th grade. DeLaSalle High School is a Catholic prep high school on Nicollet Island, which is less than a mile from the Mills District.
What Makes it Unique
Much of the neighborhood’s appeal is owed to its rich industrial character. Heritage buildings have been renovated to provide new homes or incorporated into all-new structures, while the riverfront has been redeveloped and turned into parkland, providing scenic water views and open green space.
Since it’s in downtown Minneapolis, it’s a convenient spot for those working in the city center. Yet it has a community feel. Locals can socialize and buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the Saturday Mill City Farmers Market on its plaza, and dine in local restaurants.
Who Lives There
Agents say that buyers and residents are mostly 40 years-plus. But the tides are changing and many younger singles and couples are finding the area to be the gem of downtown for its neighborhood feel, quieter disposition, and the many parks and outdoor spaces. If you want to be in downtown and raise your family, plus have all there is to offer mere steps from your door, this is the neighborhood to be in.
Many have or once held high-paying positions at the city’s largest companies. Multifoods, which owns Pillsbury; Cargill, a global corporation; Carlson Co., which owns the Radisson hotel brand; and department store retailer Target, have their headquarters here. Best Buy, meanwhile, has its corporate office in the neighboring city of Richfield.
As previously mentioned, the Pohlad family owns property in the Mill District.
Osmo Vänskä, the music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, is also said to live in the neighborhood, and many professional athletes from the various Minnesota teams call this neighborhood home when they are here during the season...you might just run into a few around the neighborhood, I have.
Prices have grown in the Mill District because it is a "desirable neighborhood with a limited inventory. Construction costs have risen and the only new build is Eleven on the River scheduled for completion 2021/2022.
Many anticipate that there will be price increases of 5% over the next year. However, with the high priced new construction building going up, it is likely this neighborhood will see greater appreciation to come.
Excerpts from Mansion Global / Claire Carponen, originally published February 23, 2019. Content added by Shane Spencer, October 20, 2020.