There have always been high hopes that Target Field would spark investment along the northwest edge of downtown Minneapolis. Today, the area is in the midst of a building boom, with one developer planning to bring hundreds of new apartments.

Politicians and developers gathered Wednesday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Dock Street Apartments, the first phase of a sprawling redevelopment effort that will help connect two distinct Minneapolis neighborhoods.

The developer, Houston-based Hines Interest, hopes Dock Street will be the first of several buildings that will bring hundreds of new residents to an area that's becoming one of the city's hippest communities. For years, the 6 1/2-acre site near Third Street and Washington Avenue N. was a virtual no-man's land largely dominated by surface parking lots and the nearby Déjà Vu Strip Club.

"I'm really pleased that they are adding commercial space, which will help build on the energy we see on Washington Avenue, and this should help bridge a gap from North Loop into the Warehouse District," said Fritz Kroll, chair of the North Loop Neighborhood Association's livability committee.

Because the baseball stadium was expected to spur other kinds of development, the project was once called Twinsville. Today, Hines is calling it the North Loop Green, a roughly three-block site that's bounded by Target Field and Washington Avenue.

With 185 rental units on the upper floors and 3,000 square feet of retail on the main level of the six-story building, the scale of Dock Street is not unlike other buildings going up in the neighborhood. What's not so typical is that its developers plan several other buildings.

Hines director Bob Pfefferle said North Loop Green will include 400 to 500 additional residential units in two additional phases, along with 400,000 to 600,000 square feet of office space. There also could be hospitality and retail components. Pfefferle said Dock Street will be completed in the fall of 2013, but that plans for the other phases will be market driven. The project is being privately financed with the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust (BIT).

"We believe Dock Street will prove to be a sound investment for our investors," said Kevin McCarthy, president of PNC Realty Investors Inc., investment adviser to the BIT. "The property is well-located in the heart of the Washington Avenue entertainment corridor and at the nexus of Minneapolis' public transit system."

Because the development is bordered by the Cedar Lake Trail and a commuter rail corridor, there were last-minute concerns the building would stand in the way of the bike trail and passenger line developments and cause a multi-year delay.

David Frank, a neighborhood resident and transit development director for the city, said those issues have been resolved and the project will have a big effect on the neighborhood, which is in the midst of an unprecedented building boom. According to Maxfield Research Group, 1,428 rental apartment units are proposed, planned or under construction in the North Loop, not including nearly 300 apartments above a Whole Foods store being built along the border between downtown and the North Loop neighborhood.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376