Five and one-quarter of the six old industrial buildings that delayed the riverfront redevelopment last year have been demolished – and most on purpose, too.

The city now has an almost blank slate to offer to developers and continued preparing the 10-acre site for what’s hoped to be an economic engine – with potentially dozens of new homes overlooking the city’s largest park and in walking distance of downtown.

But questions about what to do with the century-old blacksmith shop building only intensified after a storm knocked down a significant portion of it in October.

The Redevelopment Authority had been close to putting apartment buildings where those buildings sat before the council put the brakes on the plan last year, causing the developer to back out and the city to try to grapple with how much of its historical legacy to preserve.

The solution, it seemed, was to knock down the Highway Trailer complex, which was done this year, but try to keep the blacksmith shop for a future development like a public market or event space.

Now that Mother Nature decided to partially demolish the building herself, it remains to be seen how the RDA will proceed. In late December, it had yet to decide whether to spend any money to stabilize what remains of the building, and it was at odds with demolition contractors over whether they bore any blame for the collapse.

But at the end of 2018, the city has almost completely cleared the riverfront redevelopment site, has grant money set aside for trail work and plans for a riverfront trail with a pedestrian bridge that connects to Mandt Park and will reach out to developers early next year to start the conversation about development again.

The RDA was working on acquiring the power plant and public works building sites on Fourth Street from the city to include in the offer for a potential developer. And it was preparing to solicit broad ideas from developers on how to develop the site, hoping to attract a wider range of proposals than it did two years ago.

A proposal to turn the power plant into a distillery fell through, though the waterfront property has been discussed as the site for a potential brewery or tavern overlooking another proposal that had ups and downs in 2018: the whitewater park that would run between the development and Mandt Park across the river.

— Alexander Cramer