Tucked away in the southwestern corner of Downtown, Harmon Place is officially grouped with the Loring Park neighborhood, and likely few make a distinction between the two. But Harmon Place seems to me to have its own identity, especially considering the significant presence of large institutions like St Thomas and MCTC. Loring Park feels like the extension of Nicollet Mall, orderly but fast-paced, whereas Harmon Place is the extension of Hennepin, a little sketchy but beautiful.
Harmon Place is definitely more oriented towards commerce, and the titular Place has been designated a historic district because of its automotive past. Today the dealerships have filled in swamps and cut down forests in the suburbs and made their home there, and Harmon Place has been abandoned to ad agencies and other small office uses. The historic district is good and bad news for developers: the neighborhood has the authentic feel you don’t really get in parts the Mill District or the North Loop because the historic fabric is still largely intact. Unfortunately the regulations of the historic district mean more hoops to jump through, although for new construction they are more lenient.
The Harmon Place still has substantial room for development. Before the sky fell, sometime around 2008, there was movement to develop the block north of Hennepin, between 11th and 12th. Lund’s signed on, and an old hotel on Hawthorne was torn down. This may mean that these blocks may be prime targets for development once things are developed again, especially because parking is less profitable here, further from the CBD.
- Many of the parcels here will certainly not be developed as housing, but rather as expansion space for the neighborhood institutions. Though things haven’t been looking good for education in Minnesota lately, I was told recently that enrollment at Metro State (which leases part of the MCTC campus) has been growing at 15% annually for the past 20 years. I labeled MCTC’s parking ramp as medium, but I certainly hope it is the first to go or be expanded. I don’t think that any of the schools here have done much housing development here, but certainly they could, and it would fit right in.
- I carved out a couple parcels out of an empty space next to one of the Loring Green condo towers and in the parking lot of Booth Manor. I actually think the former is less likely, even though it is currently used for absolutely nothing, just because the residents can afford not to. The Salvation Army and other affordable housing providers aren’t so lucky, and will eventually have to make use of the wasted space mandated by zoning codes. For another example of this, see the designated parcel in the Jeremiah.
- The days are numbered for the post office here, and its specialized and one-story building is ripe for a tear-down. I’m curious to see what effect 394 has on the parcels unfortunate enough to line it.
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For such a small geographic area, Harmon Place has a lot of potential for development; according to this analysis, if all of the high-potential parcels are developed at 110 units per acre, there could be around 3,000 additional residents. Most of this is clustered in the blocks that surrounding the intersection of 11th and Hawthorne, which are likely to be developed as residential, based on past proposals.
The area north of Spruce Place is lucky enough to be zoned as a downtown district, which not only allows high-density development, it actually requires it using minimum FARs of 2.0. Most of the rest of the neighborhood is zoned OR3, which allows buildings up to 6 stories but is a bit restrictive in uses. While OR3 is probably appropriate for some of the blocks surrounding the colleges, the proposed B4N downtown neighborhood district will better fit much of Harmon Place, since it allows for more and larger retail uses and higher density.
Even if the city support isn’t there, I predict the Harmon Place neighborhood will be a focus of future development activity. Its perks in the form of parks and centrality, combined with its high visibility due to its location at some major entry points to Downtown make it likely that lots of dense development will work its way into Harmon Place.