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RED WING — Jake Maras, construction foreman on the newest downtown development project here, looked out the fourth-floor windows at the city's iconic Barn Bluff on the Mississippi River.

On the streets below, shoppers strolled among the red-brick buildings that give a timeless feel to this historic river community.

"How'd you like to wake up to that view every morning?" Maras said.

City leaders are hoping that potential residents will agree with the sentiment. Developers are launching two significant residential projects downtown. One, to be called Avanti, will add 36 apartments on the site of what's now a barber shop.

The other, which Maras is working on, is a renovation of the historic Goodhue County National Bank building into 30 or more apartments. That project is called simply "the Bank."

The two projects are the city's first major downtown residential developments in decades, said Kyle Klatt, Red Wing's community development director.

"There's really a pent-up demand for those units," Klatt said. "For a town the size of Red Wing, that's a pretty big deal."

Downtown projects are more complicated and often more expensive than those built on open land. Architects and builders must contend with neighboring buildings, busy streets and existing infrastructure. But conditions are ripe for building downtown, said Cate DeBates, vice president of Coldwell Banker Commercial Fisher Group, lead developer on the Bank.

In particular, the pandemic-fueled growth in working from home lends itself to downtown living, she said.

"People are looking for a walkable area. Pop out for lunch and then go work from home in a beautiful space," DeBates said, adding that Red Wing's downtown is "beautiful." The most likely tenants, she said, are young professionals as well as older people downsizing from a single-family home.

Downtown businesses benefit greatly from downtown residents, said Megan Tsui, executive director of Red Wing Downtown Main Street. A study by Rochester's downtown development group found that downtown residents spend $7 at downtown businesses for every $1 spent by a nonresident.

"If we could have up to 70 new residential units downtown, that is a big shot in the arm for our downtown businesses, most of which are locally owned," she said. From an ownership standpoint, it's important to have people living in older buildings, she added.

"A lot of our historic buildings, they need multiple income streams," Tsui said. "They're expensive to keep up. They're a challenge in many ways. So diversifying the income streams is really important.

"Having residential, having office, having retail is an imperative for our small towns."

Work on the Bank, a Red Wing landmark that had been vacant for about four years, has really grabbed the community's attention, Maras said.

"It's a big deal for people when I tell them what I'm working on," he said. "Everybody's real inquisitive about what's going on here."

Bringing an empty building back to life makes a big difference in a small-city downtown, Klatt said.

"I think there's been a sense of loss with that building sitting empty," he said. "It was a bank that also had offices. When that goes away, you just lose that sense of activity."

The city is blessed to have several local foundations that have identified downtown as a priority, Klatt added. They've formed a group, the Downtown Philanthropy Collaboration, that's been a great resource.

"It's been a very nice collaboration to help promote and bring activities to downtown," he said. "People here have a strong interest in preserving and maintaining downtown."