Fresh Google Aerial Imagery: Some Twin Cities Highlights

If you’ve used Google Maps in the past month, you may have noticed that some parts of the Twin Cities are looking mighty different. Google recently updated their high resolution aerial imagery, revealing scores of new buildings and infrastructure projects under construction in Minneapolis and St. Paul. If you’re zooming in for a close-up, you’ll want to disable the 45º view option. That angled imagery is from spring of 2011. The very latest top-down imagery is from September 2013 and replaces a previous version from fall of 2011.  Let’s take a look around the Twin Cities and check out some of the most obvious changes. Having the older 45º view is actually pretty handy for making comparisons, so you might want to go exploring before that imagery gets an update as well.

Uptown in spring 2011

Uptown in spring 2011

Over the last few years, development in Minneapolis neighborhoods like Uptown, North Loop, Dinkytown, and Stadium Village has been occurring at breakneck speed. The total project value of building permits issued in Minneapolis exceeded $1 Billion in both 2012 and 2013, reaching levels not seen since the year 2000. Post-recession, just a handful of new projects were underway in early 2011, including Mozaic West and Flux in Uptown (image above). Flash forward to fall of 2013 and you’ll see more than a half dozen ongoing construction projects in the same image. The new Walker Library is nearing completion, The Walkway has replaced Cowboy Slims, and the three-block Elan Uptown project is about halfway complete (image below).

Uptown in September 2013

Uptown in September 2013

Over in North Loop, there (surprisingly) wasn’t anything  cooking in early 2011, but for the past two years development has been at a rapid boil and shows no signs of cooling down. I won’t list every project, but I’ve added arrows to the photo pointing out the new additions. At the bottom of the image below is Target Field Station, formerly known as The Interchange, which will open to the public on May 17, four weeks ahead of the Green Line opening.  Head further north to see the path of destruction left behind by the North Minneapolis tornado of May 2011. The scar remaining on the landscape over two years later is truly remarkable.

North Loop in Fall 2013

North Loop in Fall 2013

Speaking of the Green Line, the two different versions of aerial imagery perfectly capture the line under early construction and at 97% completion. Areas of note include the U of M campus (both East Bank and West Bank) and Lowertown St. Paul (Union Depot, LRT Operations & Maintenance Facility, Saints Ballpark site, US-52 bridge, etc.)

Lowertown in fall 2013

Lowertown in fall 2013

Thanks for reading my first streets.mn post. Next time, I want to dig deeper into development in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood and take a look at what lies ahead (hint: look at all of that surface parking). In the meantime, keep exploring Google Maps and share your finds in the comments below. Hopefully, two years (or less) from now we’ll be equally impressed at the amount of urban infill development happening in the Twin Cities.

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3 Responses to Fresh Google Aerial Imagery: Some Twin Cities Highlights

  1. Chris Iverson
    Chris Iverson February 10, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Bizarre realization – if you look at the satellite image of DInkytown, the multiple buildings of the Marshall look like they spell out CHI.

    The lead developer is from Chicago.

  2. John Pelletier February 10, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Hi Matt, I am sure you are aware but wanted to make sure you were anyway. Hop on Google Earth and click on the little icon that looks like a clock with an arrow pointing backward, it is in the top row of icons about in the middle. This allows you to wonderfully go back in time to a bunch of dates that Google has purchased imagery for. The earliest looks like 1991 for Uptown (for example). Some of the old stuff might not be great, nor a high resolution but you can see development patterns. Google has imagery from 2012 and 2011 as well as 2013 on there and it does give the month, though here in MA we actually get the day the imagery was flown but for some reason you all don’t. Anyway enjoy historical imagery it is lots of fun to document changes!

  3. Jim February 11, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    Another interesting area to look at is the Ford site in St. Paul. You can see a lot has been demolished already.

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