Located in Roseville, Minnesota, almost smack dab in the middle of the Twin Cities metro area, Har Mar Mall opened in 1961. It was designed by the same company which built Apache Plaza in nearby St. Anthony and opened the same year (Apache Plaza failed as a mall and was torn down in 2004). However, unlike Apache Plaza, Har Mar Mall thrives, despite being less than a mile away from one of the Twin Cities’ most popular regional malls: Rosedale Center. It accomplished success by finding a retail niche and being purposely downmarket from Rosedale, and other Twin Cities traditional malls.
It wasn’t always this way. In 1981, a tornado swept through the Twin Cities area and damaged much of the area around the mall. Later, Har Mar Mall had fallen on rough times until about the mid-1990s, and decided to take on an experiment to see if it could still be viable in the 21st century. It failed to compete with the glitzier, bigger Rosedale Center just up the street and reinvented itself by replacing the anchors with big-box stores and off price, nontraditional anchors and stores. That’s not to say that Family Dollar and Shaniqua’s Wig Barn have set up shop; instead, very popular, upmarket as well as off-price anchors which usually set up in strip malls make up the eclectic mix of Har Mar Mall. The anchors are: Barnes and Noble, TJMaxx, Cub Foods (A chain grocery store based in the Twin Cities), Marshalls, and Northwestern Bookstore. Until the early 00s there was also a large Mars Music, but that closed with the entire chain. There’s also an 11-screen movie theater, a pet store, a phone store, a local book store, and much more. Instead of a food court, Har Mar has both fast food and sit-down restaurants tucked back at one end of the mall. Uniquely, all the fast food and sit-down establishments both have mall access as well as outdoor entrances.
Other design features make Har Mar truly unique and intriguing. The floorplan of the mall consists of a series of right angles, so the mall continuously zig-zags. In all, there are 4 separate hallways from the food area to Cub Foods. The longest and most interesting hallway is the corridor with Barnes and Noble. It is massively wide, and features an arched ceiling with large windows allowing natural light to come in during the day. There’s also a small basement court here with a community room. Another weird part of the mall is the hallway between the food and Marshall’s. About halfway down, it inexplicably becomes a ramp, making Marshall’s and the rest of the mall from that point several feet lower. It’s much more dramatic in person, much like the continuous sloping of the Dartmouth Mall near New Bedford, Mass.
I visited the mall and took these pictures in March, 2000. I’ve visited more recently and it hasn’t changed. It continues to be a popular center for mostly locals to watch a movie, buy groceries, get books, and go out to eat. It’s essentially a strip mall cobbled together into an indoor mall, and for that reason alone it deserves merit. However, it’s also got a great floor plan and some wonderful design features so it’s even better. Har Mar Superstar, a performer from the area who took his name from the mall, would most certainly agree.