People can be forgiven if they take a moment and scratch their heads when they are driving through the India Street neighborhood in Portland these days.

It’s been so long since many of us have seen cranes, steel girders and dozens of workers in hard hats, we may have forgotten what economic development looks like.

But there it is, a six-story building under construction that will house a 122-room hotel, a restaurant and a dozen upscale condominiums. The condos went on the market two weeks ago, and the developer says that eight are already under contract.

The project has come under criticism from some neighbors who worry that an associated parking garage that fronts on Middle Street would discourage pedestrians from walking into the up-and-coming neighborhood from the Old Port.

But even they would have to admit that any new building would be an improvement over the abandoned hot dog factory that has been their neighbor for years.

Downtown development could be a sign that the deep freeze on commercial projects is starting to thaw. That goes well with a more-positive-than-expected report on the national housing market that also shows signs of life.

Sales of existing homes have stayed stable for three months since the expiration of federal tax credits, which some economists consider is a sign that a “healing process” is under way in the sector that brought down the whole economy three years ago.

This recession has been steeper, and the recovery slower, than any in most people’s memories. But business cycles do cycle, and even the worst busts are followed by growth. Projects like the one on India Street suggest that those days may not be so far off.