File photo

File photo

Flour powers Mill District’s history

What was once the industrial center of Minneapolis is now its cultural capital

While the mills of the Mill District no longer churn out the country’s flour, the area continues to export the city’s culture and identity to millions of visitors and residents each year.

Chief among the riverfront area’s destinations are some of Minneapolis’ leading cultural institutions, including the Guthrie Theater and the MacPhail Center For Music. The Mill City Museum, built into what was once the world’s largest flourmill, offers daily tours and is home to a Ruin Courtyard which hosts Mill City Summer Opera performances and other events.

The Mill District has seen huge growth in recent years thanks to renewed interest in downtown’s eastern neighborhoods, which were recently rebranded as East Town thanks to the East Town Business Partnership, formerly the East Downtown Council. Many local leaders also credit the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium for drawing development projects to the area.

The 12-story Encore, a new luxury apartment building from downtown-based Sherman Associates, is slated to open this fall, bringing an additional 123 units to the area. Jim Stanton’s Shamrock Companies, which built Stonebridge Lofts in the neighborhood, is developing a 374-unit condo building a block down called the Legacy. Mortenson, which constructed the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, has proposed a Hyatt Centric hotel at 800 S. Washington Ave. with spaces for a café, a restaurant and the adjacent American Academy of Neurology.

The neighborhood is home to several parks, including some of the most visited parkland in the city. The Stone Arch Bridge empties into Mill Ruins Park, which boasts historic walls and waterpower features buried beneath the Mississippi riverfront. Gold Medal Park, a 7.5-acre urban park near the Guthrie Theater, is a popular destination for recreation, dog walking and enjoying ice cream from Izzy’s Ice Cream across the street.

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Neighborhood Overview

Boundaries: The Mill District is part of the larger Downtown East neighborhood. It is roughly bordered by the Mississippi River on the north, I-35W on the east, 5th Avenue on the west and Washington Avenue on the south.

How to get involved: The Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA) currently represents the area. The neighborhood group, which meets on the third Monday of the month at various locations, represents both the Downtown West and Downtown East areas. The DMNA’s Land Use Committee, which gives feedback on proposed construction projects, meets on the first Tuesday of the month at a rotating location. For times and locations, visit

Demographics: The Mill District is part of the larger Downtown East neighborhood, which has a population of 1,623 people and median income of $74,083, according to the most recent data from Minnesota Compass.

Special attractions: For the past decade the Mill City Farmers Market has drawn people to the Mill City Museum with its organic produce, wares from local artisans and live entertainment. The market, which takes place on Saturdays and is open 8 a.m.­–1 p.m. during the fall, has become a year-round destination, moving inside the museum for special winter markets during colder months.

The Guthrie Theater hosts regular performances, tours and other events. Guests can also get picturesque views of the riverfront and downtown Minneapolis from the theater’s Endless Bridge and Amber Box. Sea Change, an acclaimed restaurant from James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee, is located on the ground floor and serves weekend brunch, lunch and dinner.

Photo by Mark Vancleave  courtesy of the Guthrie Theater
Photo by Mark Vancleave courtesy of the Guthrie Theater