The property manager at Loring Corners, Alex Heller, is a dreamer. When he looks down the alley behind Loring Corners, he sees much more than a bumpy brick road that leads to a dumpster room. He sees a four-seasons pedestrian mall.
“It’s been an idea of mine my whole life,” Heller told me from his office in the Loring Corners building. Heller also credits his travels to Europe as a major source of inspiration.
He also isn’t the only one at Loring Corners who has had this idea. Heller found a rendering for a four-seasons pedestrian mall in the basement of Loring Corners that was designed in the 1990s.
Maintaining the brick road behind Loring Corners has long been a priority to Heller’s family. Loring Corners paid to put new bricks down in 2012 when they deteriorated. The alley is property of the City of Minneapolis but the City only pays to put asphalt down. Heller’s step-dad owns the building and Heller took over the daily operations of the building in 2019.
“The area is too important to be paved to asphalt,” Heller said. It’s also too expensive for Loring Corners to pay to lay bricks down again without owning the alley.
Heller thought if he could get the City to transfer ownership of the alley, he could keep the alley bricked and construct the pedestrian mall of his dreams.
He talked with all of the Loring Corners tenants and got their support. Some tenants get deliveries in the alleyway but it was fairly easy, according to Heller, to agree to a hypothetical delivery route along Harmon Place.
Heller even has a new spot in the building to relocate the dumpster room that is located in the alleyway. All his boxes were checked. Through Heller’s existing relationship at the City, he got a meeting with a city planner.
"I thought it was a quick thing," Heller said. Heller had done all the grunt work. Everyone in the building was on board. The City doesn’t have to maintain the alley anymore, the City can be proud of a future pedestrian mall.
"It’s a win for everyone, right?" Heller asked rhetorically.
Not so fast, dreamer.
The city planner squashed the idea very quickly, according to Heller, because if the alleyway turned into a pedestrian mall, it would technically create a dead end street. Never mind that the Loring Corners tenants and surrounding businesses are in support of the plan. The plan just doesn’t mesh with city planning protocol.
Heller is not giving up. According to Councilmember Lisa Goodman’s office, who represents Loring Park, a Public Works representative reached out to Heller this week.
“Public Works is planning to work with Alex to vacate the alley (if that is doable),” Patrick Sadler said in an email to Southwest Voices. “There are multiple property owners that abut the alley along with utilities in the alley so this will be a complicated process.”
So while the City is being careful not to over promise, Heller is ready to go. He even has the money secured to build the pedestrian mall as soon as the City hands over the alley.
"When the dreams hit, I am able to finance that," Heller said.
The Loring Corners alley will be home to Fawkes Alley Coffee, set to open in the spring.