MNObserved commented in my previous post on cycling in St. Paul that I must be crazed to suggest industrial vacancies along the riverfront in Minnesota's fairer city. Respectfully, I dissent.
If you were to venture past the High Bridge, down around the Randolph Avenue area, you will notice a landscape utterly devoid of forward-thinking urban planning. The argument here is not whether there are industrial vacancies or not (though I beg you to witness a brand-new "light industrial" complex sitting completely empty, having no particular reason to exist other than to take up space), it's why the riverfront continues to exist in the state that it is.
You are correct that there's a new Science Museum, Eagle Street park, etc. etc. There's even the new condo/apartment buildings (Soviet-style, as you mentioned) that have cropped up. St. Paul has done a fine job reconstructing about three blocks of the riverfront. But the city has the wonderful advantage of having miles of riverfront that it has for decades squandered. Yes, there are logistical reasons for some of that development. But there are no reasons (that I can see) why that sort of development (heavy industrial) has to exist side-by-side with high-density residential around the city's greatest natural resource. The river would be better left as a nature sanctuary than to continue to delapidate in the state that it's in.
And, yes, there are train tracks. But there are myriad places that have train tracks without detracting substantially from the beauty of a natural landscape.
Now, there are (and have been) stirrings of turning this around. On the West St. Paul side of the river there is the somewhat-maligned Bridges of St. Paul project. The city has also had a long-range plan in play for greater integration between the river, residential, and commercial planning. I'm confident and optimistic that eventually St. Paul will have a vibrant riverfront that both protects the natural wonder and environmental sanctity of the river while capitalizing on it through "smart growth." None of this, however, changes the sad fact that the St. Paul portion of the Mississippi River has largely been wasted - both by being sold out for industrial purposes and as a result polluted - for years and years.