As the North Loop neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis gentrified and lured hundreds of millions of dollars in development spending, one question hung over it: Would it remain the city's hotbed of adult entertainment?

The answer may emerge after the sale of two buildings where two highly visible venues, SexWorld and Sinners Gentleman's Club, have operated.

The buildings at 121 Washington and 241 2nd Av. N. are under contract, according to Jeff Salzbrun, an agent at Essence Real Estate Services who is representing their owner, Jerry Buchanan. Buchanan confirmed the negotiations on Monday and said he hopes to reach a final deal this summer, though he noted, "Nothing is final until it's final."

They declined to identify the prospective buyer. Sinners closed last year. SexWorld, a seller of adult entertainment products, is still open.

The store's owner and manager did not return phone calls.

Buchanan, whose late brother Dennis Buchanan Sr. co-founded SexWorld about 30 years ago, said, "The business that is there now will still likely be involved in the property somehow but maybe in a different configuration."

He said "a number" of buyers have approached him about the property, which is on a busy street near Target Field and surrounded by blocks that have redeveloped with upscale housing and shopping over the past five years.

Buchanan speculated that a buyer would look at dividing the approximately 60,000 square feet of space into a variety of uses, such as apartments, office space, retail and dining. "It's zoned for almost every use in the catalog," he said.

The properties' immediate neighbors now include a boutique, bike shop and trendy restaurant.

"This neighborhood is really changing. It surprises me that there are as many of these establishments left as there are, especially with how high rents are in the neighborhood," said Fritz Kroll, a real estate agent who lives and works in the North Loop.

Regardless of the use, he hopes the buyer makes some improvements to the buildings' exterior.

"I just think it looks tacky," Kroll said. "I don't want to be the neighborhood prude, but I don't think anyone would be too bummed out if it were a J.Crew."

David Frank, president of the North Loop Neighborhood Association, said some area residents grumble about the neon-lit presence of strip clubs in the quickly transitioning neighborhood but that the association has never had trouble with the corner's occupants.

"Broadly speaking, we support businesses that operate legally, get permits and shovel their sidewalks," Frank said. "There are certainly some strong sentiments, given the nature of these businesses. But I fall back on if this is a legal business, what else is there to say?"

John Rimarcik, owner of the Haute Dish building next door, said that while he would prefer a different type of retailer as a neighbor, he defends the right of SexWorld to be there.

"That area was so unsafe before SexWorld got there. It really cleaned up the neighborhood," Rimarcik said.

He noted that city officials in the 1990s pressured adult theaters and similar businesses to leave Uptown and northeast Minneapolis for the downtown area.

"I'm real riled up against the city that took all of these legitimate businesses and uprooted them in the first place, forcing them downtown on Washington," Rimarcik said. "Then, when that area gets nice, they are pressured not to be there."