After many fits and starts over the years, redevelopment of the Superior Plating property in northeast Minneapolis into a residential and retail enclave appears to be inching forward once again.

Just a month ago, the project appeared to be on hold. The 5.4-acre swath of land along 1st Avenue NE. — one of the few parcels left for development in the popular city neighborhood — was targeted for about 500 apartments and up to 35,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

But last week, Rich Kauffman, president of construction for the Midwest region of DLC Residential, said demolition of the Superior Plating building has begun, and the project is moving forward. Florida-based DLC has signed a letter of intent with property owner First & University Investors to buy the site, a former industrial finishing operation now undergoing an extensive environmental cleanup.

While DLC has yet to submit formal plans to the city, the project has generated much anticipation among neighbors, developers and city officials.

Over the past 15 years, the neighborhood — home to Nye’s Polonaise Room (rated by Esquire magazine as one of the best bars in the U.S.), Kramarczuk’s deli and Surdyk’s liquor store — has morphed from an industrial area into a highly desirable residential and shopping district. Development has been spurred in part by its proximity to downtown (just across the Hennepin Avenue bridge), the University of Minnesota and the Mississippi River waterfront.

“A lot of work has gone into the area over the past 30 years — patient work,” said Haila Maze, a principal planner with the city of Minneapolis. “Originally it was pretty scruffy.”

No more.

In addition to the Superior Plating project, developers are working on two other key projects at the former Totino’s Italian Kitchen site, and two long-abandoned warehouses on the edge of the retail district.

The Totino’s property is being developed into Red 20, a 130-unit six-story apartment building with street-level retail. And 156 apartments and retail are planned for the warehouses at 700 and 708 Central Av. NE., as well as adjacent property.

While those projects are important to the development continuum of northeast, developer Scott Tankenoff says there are a few parcels that could still be overhauled in the area.

As managing partner of Minneapolis-based Hillcrest Development, Tankenoff was instrumental in northeast Minneapolis’ makeover. The firm was involved with Exeter Realty in developing the Cobalt Condominiums on University Avenue SE., which is anchored by a Lunds grocery store. The glassy condo building and groundbreaking urban grocery store replaced a nondescript strip mall and set the stage in 2005 for future projects.

Tankenoff said redevelopment of the Superior Plating site is “long overdue. It’s a good site, but it has its share of challenges.”

He said the neighborhood residents are “intelligent, plugged in and engaged. They have an acute understanding of what will work, and what won’t work [in the neighborhood].”

Kauffman, of DLC, said his firm is working with the Nicollet Island-East Bank Neighborhood Association to gauge reaction to the firm’s plans for the site.

Victor Grambsch, president of the association, characterized a recent meeting with DLC as “very pleasant, but it was kind the way you’d characterize a first-date kind of meeting. No decisions were made and, as far as I know, there’s nothing binding that DLC is going to build something there. It’s pretty nebulous right now.”

The Association favors taller transit- and pedestrian-oriented buildings and “quality construction” as opposed to a series of low-lying structures, he added.

“Everyone is happy [the Superior Plating site] is being cleaned up, but there’s no agreement as to what’s going to be there,” Grambsch said. Still, he noted, “we’re very hopeful.”