Witch’s Hat height dictates new development

A petition by residents of Prospect Park in response a proposed development aims to ensure an unobscured view of the iconic landmark.

Visitors celebrate at the top of Witch's Hat Tower on Saturday, June 1. Built in 1913, Witch's Hat Tower has been a major landmark in Minneapolis for generations. New developments have been proposed near Prospect Park, and the Prospect Park Association is concerned that the height of developments will block the view from the tower.

Tony Saunders

Visitors celebrate at the top of Witch’s Hat Tower on Saturday, June 1. Built in 1913, Witch’s Hat Tower has been a major landmark in Minneapolis for generations. New developments have been proposed near Prospect Park, and the Prospect Park Association is concerned that the height of developments will block the view from the tower.

J.D. Duggan

The height of a new apartment in Prospect Park has drawn concern from residents who fear the neighborhood’s iconic Witch’s Hat Tower will not stand out amid heavy development. 

The Prospect Park Association has welcomed density in the past, but neighborhood residents are requesting to limit the height of new developments to retain a view to and from the Witch’s Hat Tower that stands at an elevation of 1,080 feet. Vermilion Development’s newest Art and Architecture building redevelopment has sparked a petition after the developer’s original proposal was taller than the nearby tower.

“[The petition] came into being in response to the fact that we have transit along here now. So this area has become of interest to developers, and so building height is a concern,” said Lynn Von Korff, a Prospect Park resident. “It isn’t really a direct response to Vermilion.”

The petition, which was published online, is partially a response to the Vermilion development, but is also meant to guide future projects near the tower. As of Wednesday, the petition had nearly 700 signatures.

Von Korff said that while many residents welcome density in the neighborhood, they want developers to respect the views to and from the tower, which many locals view as a symbol of Prospect Park. 

“It’s a treasured icon,” she said of the landmark, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Vince Netz, president of Prospect Park Association, said while the height of incoming developments often draw the attention of PPA, most of the proposed buildings are far enough away from Tower Hill Park. But the Vermillion project’s proximity to the park made it an issue in the neighborhood. 

Ari Parritz, development manager for Vermilion, said although the height request was not made clear from the beginning, he has since tried to balance different neighborhood interests, including height and density.

“You’re never going to have 100 percent consensus on what you’re doing [in development], you’re just hoping to have the right consensus,” Parritz said.

Parritz and PPA’s task force assigned to the development have deliberated the project for approximately six months, with over six weeks spent discussing the height. The project has dropped 50 feet, from 17 stories to 13 stories, which puts the condo building level with the observation deck floor of the tower.

Parritz said the evolution of the project has broken up the apartment into differing heights, rather than a uniform one, which was present in original concepts. 

Wednesday’s task force meeting ended in a unanimous consensus in favor of the project’s most recent iteration, with many task force members expressing appreciation for Vermilion’s efforts to find a compromise.

“The unanimous vote [shows]  a really nice community-based compromise … it’s really gone a long way to bridge the divide,” Netz said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Vince Netz’s title and mischaracterized Prospect Park Association’s involvement in the petition. Netz is PPA’s president. Neighborhood residents are requesting to limit the height of new developments.