A few years ago, Minneapolis residents, city leaders, and property owners were torn over the fate of the unsightly vacant lot at the corner of Portland and Washington avenues, a messy excavation site left over from stalled redevelopment plans. All stakeholders were set on finding the right occupant for the prime downtown spot near the city’s cultural institutions and historic landmarks, including the internationally acclaimed Guthrie Theater. Some were focused on making sure the new building’s design fit in with the neighborhood’s elegant, upper-class character. Others wanted lots of open green space, and still others were hoping for a mix of retail and residential development that would lure young professionals to the city center. “Lots of attention was paid to this project,” says architect Gretchen Camp of BKV Group, the architectural firm that helped create the solution.

Amazingly, amidst the economic downturn of 2008, when most other local construction had ceased, developer Village Green struck a deal with the city, adjacent condominium owners, local lenders, and private partners to redevelop the site, known by locals as “the pit.”

The resulting Mill District City Apartments keeps all of its neighbors happy by offering luxury rentals in a thoughtfully designed building that blends in with its elegant surroundings. The plan also includes a 3,400-square-foot Japanese restaurant and plenty of artfully landscaped outdoor space. The boutique hotel–style apartment units boast 9- to 18-foot ceilings, oversized windows, hardwood flooring, granite islands, and contemporary track lighting. In the common areas, residents can enjoy the well-appointed club room, fitness center, sauna, and indoor and outdoor pools. The high-end touches, central location, and social atmosphere have attracted a lot of interest—especially from young professionals—and there is a three-month-long waiting list for prospective renters, according to Village Green regional marketing director Stefanie Balsis.

Aside from the amenities, the developer also placed great importance on sustainable features as a way to attract tenants who enjoy urban living. “They knew that for the clientele they were marketing to, it was important to incorporate sustainable practices and efficiency,” says BKV Group senior interior designer Kelly Naylor.