The word downtown conjures up images of skyscrapers and traffic jams, but Minneapolis’ downtown district along the Mississippi is decidedly more relaxed. Residents stroll river paths, stop in at neighborhood coffee shops, and meander across the Mississippi River on the Stone Arch Bridge. This historic riverfront district, which spans several neighborhoods and both sides of the river, looks dramatically different than it did a decade ago. New residential developments are going up all the time, while old brick warehouses are being converted into high-end lofts and condos. The opening of the Guthrie Theater’s new building here in 2006 (along with the great new restaurant Spoonriver adjacent to it) has only solidified the area’s position as a trendy place to live and visit. Downtown living has obvious allure: maintenance-free living, a river running through your backyard, short commute times, ample public transportation, and endless restaurants and entertainment. Of course, you pay for location, which explains why upper-class empty nesters and young professionals are the most common residents here. Note: This also isn’t the place to be if you’re dreaming of a single-family home. It’s apartments, condos, and townhomes all the way.
Downtown West (Park Avenue to Hennepin/2nd Avenue North, along the riverfront and west to 12th Street} centers around Nicollet Mall, an eight-block commercial strip closed to cars, and the restored Warehouse District, an area of nightclubs, restaurants, and galleries along First Avenue, north of the Target Center. This area's corporate tone is matched by plenty of high-rise apartment buildings with luxury suites and condominiums. Downtown West is also home to empty-nesters who left their single-family homes in the suburbs and moved into the high-rises and townhouses to be close to the symphony, the theater district, and the shopping. You'll find loft apartments created out of 19th century flour and blanket mills in the warehouse districts of the North Loop (2nd Avenue North to Duluth Avenue, west to 1-94 and east to the river), Downtown East (Park Avenue to 35W) and Downtown West These warehouse districts are turning the riverfront into the trendiest places to live in the city, and are home to professional artists, entertainers, corporate suits, retirees and young people.