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Before/After Views Of The North Loop Show Dramatic Changes

What we know today as a vibrant entertainment, residential and business district was still a dirty, rundown, almost-forgotten section of downtown Minneapolis 25 years ago.

But as developers started to show interest back then, the city sent out a staffer with a camera to get photos of the area as they considered a rezoning proposal. And thanks to those 1998 snapshots–now on file with the Hennepin County Library–we can show you just how much things have changed.

In 2023, this is where we enjoy fine dining at Borough or burgers and cocktails at Parlour. Residents of ElseWarehouse get bright sunshine through their loft windows. But 25 years ago, this old warehouse was in pretty rough shape.

This is where we now get some of the Twin Cities’ best seafood–at Smack Shack. And residents of The Copham enjoy stylish apartments with historic touches–some with skyline views. But in 1998, this former warehouse/printing facility was looking pretty desolate.

This former bakery was being used as a warehouse and annex for Litin Paper in 1998. Now, several businesses have offices in the tower while the annex has been converted to The Freehouse restaurant with a popular patio on the new Nordic Plaza.

The old Maytag Warehouse on Washington Avenue was operating as Gardner Hardware in 1998. But now, in 2023, it’s home to a great restaurant: NOLOs Kitchen & Bar, as well as Basement Bar and Rooftop Bar.

Crossing the rusty Washington Avenue bridge in 1998, you’d see more rundown warehouses on either side. The one on the right has since been converted into Security Warehouse Lofts. The one on the left now features AxeBridge Winery, OrangeTheory Fitness, Edina Realty, and marketing agency Broadhead.

In the historic Colonial Warehouse where we now enjoy great shopping at MartinPatrick3, Statement and Outdoor Voices, there was a mix of music, antiques and artists shops in 1998, as well as the beloved Moose and Sadie’s.

Looking down 5th Avenue North in 1998 you had a clear view of the old Creamette building. RiverStation was built later that year on what used to be a rail yard. 5th Avenue Lofts (behind Crisp & Green), Lindsay Lofts (next to Creamette) and Towne Place Suites (left) have been added in subsequent years. There wasn’t even a stop light at 5th and Washington in 1998.

Standing on the 1st Street bridge over the railroad tracks in 1998, you had a clear view of the Tower. But now you see Rock Island Lofts (center), 5th Avenue Lofts (left) and Heritage Landing (right).

This 1998 photo shows restoration crews scrubbing the exterior of this old bag factory for what would eventually become Tower Lofts.

The view of the same building from the back (as well as the old International Harvester building on the left) shows the dramatic transformation from industrial to residential.

Before and after shots of what is now Harvester Lofts. There were no balconies on this building in 1998!

There were several surface parking lots along 2nd Street North in 1998–where 5th Avenue Lofts (left) and Towne Place Suites (center) are now.

The 1st Street buildings that are now home to the Minnesota Opera, Lab Theater and Gaar Scott Lofts were facing an empty field 25 years ago (and there was an odd, green metal facade on the Gaar Scott building). Back then, the old rail yard was being prepped for the new RiverStation development as well as Creamette Lofts (both built in 1998).

In 1998, part of the old Duffey Paper facility was occupied by an apparel manufacturer, Rohde Royce. Today, the building has been renovated into the Duffey Lofts apartments, with Backstory Coffee and Stalk & Spade on the street level.

The buildings that are now home to The Loop, Black Sheep Pizza and Profeshie photo studio didn’t seem to have a lot of activity in them in 1998.

In 1998, this historic warehouse was in its last few years of stashing hundreds of thousands of books. It would be sold in 2002 and converted into Bookmen Lofts.

Another look at Bookmen from the side. What used to be a loading dock is now Bookmen Lofts’ 6th Avenue entrance.

This former lutefisk processing facility was being used for printing in 1998. It’s now home to Crisp & Green, Floyd’s barber shop, Modern Love veterinary, Face Foundrie and other businesses.

The former farm implement warehouse had very few windows on its north side in 1998. But now residents of Security Warehouse Lofts enjoy windows and balconies.

And finally, one that I never would’ve recognized if not for the address. Fulton turned this nondescript building into a taproom–the first in Minneapolis–in 2012. They’ve made significant alterations in recent years, adding a new entry way and a much larger patio.

To go even farther back in time, check out some of the many stories in our Historic North Loop section.

By Mike Binkley, North Loop volunteer

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