Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is "the Ford Site"?
The Ford Site is the location of a former Ford Motor Company assembly plant in the Highland Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Ford refers to the property as the Twin Cities Assembly Plant. The Ford plant operated from 1925 to 2011, starting with assembly of Model Ts and ending with production of the Ford Ranger. At its peak, the plant employed more than 1,800 people.
Q: How big is the Ford Site?
The area of the Ford Site includes up to three properties:
1. The 122-acre main assembly plant parcel owned by Ford, located south of Ford Parkway and east of Mississippi River Boulevard.
2. The 22-acre river parcel owned by Ford, located along the Mississippi River and up to the bluff edge of Mississippi River Boulevard. The property contains a steam plant and waste water treatment plant that served the main assembly plant, and a former dump site (read more below under "Contamination" - "Area C"). The river parcel owned by Ford does not include the hydroelectric facility (read more below under "Hydroelectric Plant").
3. The 13-acre rail yard owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, a wedge-shaped parcel located on the south border of Ford's main parcel. The rail yard and the rail spur to it served the Ford Site for most of its operating years. The City is currently conducting a feasibility study to reimagine the potential use of the five-mile corridor which connects to the site through this parcel.
Q: Which properties are being considered for redevelopment?
The main redevelopment site is Ford's 122-acre parcel, and with inclusion of the 13-acre Canadian Pacific Railway parcel to the south the total comes to 135 acres. Both owners are interested in sale and redevelopment of their properties, but the sales will occur independently. Ford is considering future options for its river parcel - it may be sold with the other property, or it may progress independently.
Q: When will the site be developed?
Infrastructure work (public realm) may begin in 2020 or 2021, with development to happen in phases, based on market conditions, likely over the next 15 to 20 years (through 2030).
OWNERSHIP & SALE OF THE SITE
Q: Does the City own the property?
No. Ford owns the site and will sell it to a buyer/developer. A portion of the site will become public right-of-way for infrastructure, like roads and stormwater management.
Q: Will the City of Saint Paul or Ramsey County seek to buy the site?
It is expected that the Ford Site will be purchased by a private real estate developer.
Q: Will more than one developer purchase the property?
It is most likely that the Ford Site will be sold as one parcel to a master developer, though it is possible for there to be several buyers. The City's developed Master Plan framework helps to ensure that the site is developed in a coordinated manner, according to the vision of stakeholders.
Q: When will Ford market and sell the site?
Ford has not yet determined when it will put the site on the market for sale to a master developer, though Ford has identified CBRE to be the broker. (Contact information for lead broker Richard Palmitar is provided at the bottom of the FAQs.)
While the City of Saint Paul will not be an official party in the master developer selection, it is expected that serious developer prospects will meet with the City to determine if the vision and goals of the City and the developer are closely enough aligned for the project to be successful.
Q: What roles do the City and Ford have for the site? Who else is involved?
City of Saint Paul: Establish the master plan vision for the site (zoning and public realm plan) to serve as a framework for future proposed development. Guide further planning efforts once actual development is proposed on the property.
Ford (Including Ford Land and Ford Environmental Quality Office): Manage environmental testing and remediation as property owner. Prepare the site for sale and manage the site broker (CBRE) and ultimately negotiate the sale of the land to a master developer.
State of Minnesota: Conduct an environmental review of the new development and provide regulatory oversight of pollution clean-up.
Master Developer (to be determined): Propose actual development on the site consistent with the zoning and public realm framework.
Q: Why is the City developing a zoning and public realm plan?
The site is currently zoned primarily for industrial use. Ford may put the site on the market whenever it chooses and has indicated that this could likely be early 2018. Before that point, setting the guidelines for what the future streets and public space will look like (public realm plan) and instilling guidance around development on the site (zoning plan) will help attract master developers who are responsive to the community's vision for the site and help to ensure quality redevelopment.
Q. Were any changes made to the Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan since it was first made public in November 2016?
Yes. After collecting initial community feedback on the draft zoning plan, the draft plan was revised in March 2017. One notable change at that time included modifying 25% of the highest density, 110’ maximum height to a lower density, 75’ maximum height zoning. Another modification included reducing the amount of a lot that buildings can cover, thereby increasing the open space required on each private development parcel.
During the City Council review, Councilmember Chris Tolbert proposed amendments regarding building height limitations. Councilmember Chris Tolbert and Councilmember Dai Thao also proposed amendments to the plan regarding Affordable Housing on the site.
Q: Now that the Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan has been passed, what happens next?
It is anticipated that Ford Motor Company will put the site on the market in early 2018. The Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan identifies the site’s redevelopment potential and market value to prospective buyers and sets a framework for the phased development, which will likely take place over the next 15 to 20 years. A more detailed development plan, outlining possible phases for redevelopment, will be created by a future developer, once Ford sells the property.
Q: What types of jobs could be on the site?
Light industry, research and development, custom manufacturing that is not trucking-dependent, and more are envisioned for the site. At full build-out, the site could provide up to 1,500 jobs. Providing a range of employment along with housing and services at the future site will ensure the site's economic value for the city and residents.
Learn more in this jobs strategy document, an outcome of the work by the Jobs and Employment Workgroup.
Q: Under the proposed plans, how many housing units can be build and how many people are estimated to live on the site?
Residential units on the future Ford Site will be a mix of ownership and rental, will vary in size and price, and will target different ages and household types, though much of this will depend on current market conditions at the time of development. Currently 38% of households in Highland consist of a single person. To meet the demands of this population, draft plans call for adding a variety of housing choices, including multi-family and townhome units. The draft plan also includes goals around affordable housing across the site.
At full build-out, the redevelopment could include between 2,400 and 4,000 residential units, based on the current plans. The proposed plans reflect an increase of 4,320 to 7,200 new residents. Note: The 2010 census shows that the average multi-family unit household size in Highland averages 1.8 people, which was used for the estimation of new residents in the redevelopment area.
Highland Park has been home to 8%-9% of the City's population since the 1980s. The growth proposed in the plan is consistent with Highland's share of the City's population and projected City-wide growth.
Q: Are affordable housing goals included in this plan?
Housing affordability is an important need across the region, the city, and within the Highland Park neighborhood. The City's housing affordability goals for the Ford Site include:
- 5% of housing units should be affordable to households earning 60% or less of Area Median Income
- 5% of housing units should be affordable to households earning 50% or less of Area Median Income
- 10% of housing units should be affordable to households earning 30% or less of Area Median Income
- Affordable units should be a mix of housing types, including townhomes, rental, ownership and senior
- Provide some affordable units within mixed-income buildings -- a blend of market-rate and affordable units
- Locate affordable units throughout the site; do not cluster or concentrate them in one area
These goals are in addition to the city-wide affordable housing policy, which applies when certain public subsidy is invested in a housing project. Find details about this policy in the housing section of the City's current Comprehensive Plan.
PARKS & RECREATION
Q: Will there be park space allocated within the new redevelopment?
Yes. The Public Realm plan calls for 21% of the site to be public parks, trails and open space – spread throughout the site to create a vibrant, green development.
Q: How did the City decide on the amount and type of open space in the plan?
Following the City’s recently adopted parkland dedication ordinance, the City can only legally require 9% of property to be designated specifically as parkland during the platting process (creating new property lines to subdivide the property into smaller parcels), though a developer could decide to build more parkland than required by City ordinance.
Additional land can be set aside for stormwater treatment infrastructure (with park-like qualities) and public right-of-way (roads, bike paths and sidewalks) in addition to the 9%. The City has leveraged this in the draft plans, accounting for a total of over 20% of the site to be public parks, trails, and open space.
Q: What will happen to the Little League baseball fields?
The retention of the Ford Little League Fields somewhere on the site is one of the City’s top priorities. Technically, recreation fields are an allowable land use in any of the proposed zoning districts.
Q: How will stormwater be managed on the site?
The City is actively looking at innovative approaches to stormwater management on a variety of sites throughout the city, with Ford Site redevelopment being a clear opportunity to consider a district-wide system. One of the goals for stormwater treatment on the Ford Site is to “daylight” Hidden Falls in Saint Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood. This was identified in the City’s adopted Great River Passage plan.
The Ford stormwater infrastructure plan outlines transformation of the site by featuring a stormwater-based amenity for the community that reconnects the community to parks and the Mississippi River.
TRAFFIC and TRANSPORTATION
Q: How much traffic will the Ford Site redevelopment generate? The area is already congested. Is traffic generation being considered as a limiting factor for the amount of development at the site?
Traffic is one of the most important factors to evaluate for redevelopment of the Ford Site. The Highland Village area already has streets that experience heavy congestion during peak traffic hours, particularly at the intersection of Ford Parkway and Cleveland Avenue. The City of Saint Paul is very conscious of the situation and is committed to finding a workable transportation solution for the Ford Site development and the community.
The City of Saint Paul hired nationally recognized professional transportation analysis firms Nelson/Nygaard, SRF Consulting and Utile to conduct a transportation study how the Ford Site could develop without straining the traffic system in the surrounding neighborhood.
The study showed that incorporating a street grid on the site will assist in managing vehicle traffic and provide better connections for pedestrian and cyclists. A robust transportation network will create a connected site that accounts for and enhances the residential element of the existing neighborhood and will ensure a better experience for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike – both in and around the site, particularly along Ford Parkway.
The master developer selected for the site will be required to conduct a more detailed transportation study, which will look specifically at how various development scenarios impact transportation access to, from and around the site, and identify tactics to mitigate any concerns. This will take place as part of a full environmental impact analysis, the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR). This will likely occur in 2019.
Q: Is additional transit service being considered for the redevelopment?
Yes, enhanced transit service to support the people living on, working at, and visiting the Ford Site is a priority. There is already strong transit service on Ford Parkway, with the A-Line bus rapid transit connecting the site to the Blue and Green light rail lines, as well as multiple bus lines in close proximity to the site. The City will work closely with Metro Transit to look at routing transit service through the Ford Site once redevelopment occurs, connecting it to the area transit network.
The potential for a major transit alignment through the Ford Site is being examined as one of a number of alignment options in Ramsey County's Riverview Corridor Study.
Q: What is planned for parking on the site?
Parking needs will be met on the site through structured ramps in addition to on-street, small surface lots and alley parking. The draft plan calls for parking maximums and minimums for each building to ensure the right balance of parking spaces on the site.
Q: Will environmental review or traffic studies be required for proposed redevelopment of the site?
Yes, the size of the site and anticipated level of development will automatically trigger environmental review requirements under Minnesota State Law.
The master developer selected for the site will be required to conduct a more detailed transportation study, which will look specifically at how various development scenarios impact transportation access to, from and around the site, and identify tactics to mitigate any concerns. This will take place as part of a full environmental impact analysis, the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR)This will likely occur in 2019.
Q: How is the demolition process being handled?
Ford is in charge of the demolition of all of the buildings on the site and removing all of the concrete slabs before selling the property. Ford is also responsible for the environmental remediation of the property.
Q: Who is doing the demolition?
Ford Motor Company has hired a number of contracting firms to conduct the decommissioning and demolition activities. Devon Industrial Group led the building demolition activities, and Bolander & Sons Co. is leading the site grading and restoration work.
Q: How is the demolition being monitored?
The City of Saint Paul approved and is tracking all demolition and remediation activities at the Ford Site. Inspectors make regular visits and discuss ongoing progress and work plans. Other agencies oversee specific aspects of the work – Ramsey County monitors identification and removal of regulated substances (like asbestos), Capitol Region Watershed monitors on-site installations to manage stormwater and erosion, the Department of Natural Resources tests runoff at the Hidden Falls water feature to ensure water quality is stable, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency oversees all environmental testing.
Q: How will potential impacts of dust and toxins from demolition be minimized?
The City of Saint Paul requires that dust be managed throughout the demolition process. Ford’s contractors will be required to comply with those standards. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Ramsey County both oversee appropriate removal and handling of toxins during the decommissioning process. They will work closely with Ford and the City of Saint Paul at each stage of decommissioning to ensure the health and safety of the surrounding community and environment.
Q: What will happen with the Ford site after it has been demolished?
The site will be seeded with a grass mixture, and the property will be put up for sale by Ford for purchase by a master developer.
Q: Why was demolition the best strategy for the site?
After Ford Motor Company announced planned closure of the Saint Paul assembly plant in 2006, the City of Saint Paul explored several ideas for re-use or sale of the plant. Auto industry representatives and real estate professionals agreed that the age and the specialized design of the facilities are prohibitively expensive to retrofit and are no longer relevant to today’s manufacturers. However, with support from the Minnesota State Legislature, the City also conducted a feasibility study for reusing the site for green manufacturing. Their findings are described here.
CONTAMINATION / POLLUTION
Q: Is there pollution at the Ford Site? If yes, who will clean it up?
Ford and its environmental consultant Arcadis has completed extensive testing for soil and water contamination across the site.
Some impacts have been found and are being cleaned up by Ford with oversight from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Ford is cleaning up the site for a mix of uses, including commerce, employment, housing and open space. Some uses, such as residential, may be restricted from parts of the site. Cleanup efforts are expected to be complete by mid-2019.
Learn more about the environmental remediation.
Q: Is any agency tracking environmental testing and results for the Ford Site?
Yes, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and its staff are actively tracking the investigations and testing results from the Ford Site. Ford is enrolled in the agency’s “Voluntary Investigation and Clean Up Program” and its “Petroleum Brownfields Program.” MPCA staff review and approve all proposed testing, test results, and remediation cleanup plans and activities. They regularly visit the site to oversee testing and to discuss upcoming work.
Q: Is there any pollution in the dust from the site that may blow to adjacent properties on very windy days?
All soil from the site that contains potential contaminants is being removed or stored in piles under large tarps on the site to prevent water or wind erosion from carrying away the soil. Ford contractors are watering soil and dust on the site during dry spells to minimize blowing dust. On very windy days, some dust may occur, but it does not contain contaminants and therefore does not pose extra health risks.
Q: How will the redevelopment of the site affect my taxes?
A financial analysis of the potential Ford Site development estimates that the taxable value of the property could increase from $1.1 million today to $22.3 million when development is complete. The increase to our tax base is important to help continue to support essential city services in the long term. Taxes generated from the site may help reduce the tax burden of residents citywide.
Q: What public financing has been committed to the site?
Currently there has been no public financing committed to redevelopment on the site. However the City has preserved the ability to use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a financing tool in the future, if needed, to help with the costs of infrastructure and basic public amenities. A TIF Plan was passed in 2016 to preserve the ability to use this tool.
It is possible that a developer may request funding assistance when they propose a development plan. Such a request would then be evaluated by third-party finance professionals to determine if and how much funding meets the “but for” test – “but for” the funding, development would not proceed and the land would remain undeveloped. Allocating public funds would then require review and approval through the City Council, including an opportunity for public input.
Q: Who owns the hydroelectric plant that Ford used to help power the former plant?
Ford Motor Company sold the facility in 2008 to Brookfield Power, a Canadian firm, which sells the electricity it generates to the power grid.
Q: Could the hydro plant provide power to the redeveloped Ford Site?
Technically, power from the plant could be directed into a site-based grid at a redeveloped Ford Site.
Q: Why didn't the City of Saint Paul purchase the Ford hydro plant?
The City carefully explored the potential for municipal ownership of the Ford hydro dam. It was not pursued because an evaluation of market and regulatory conditions suggested that the winning bidder would likely pay a considerable premium above what the current market rates for electricity from the dam could directly support. This is due to the perceived advantage for private power utilities of adding a “green” facility to their overall portfolio to meet evolving regulatory standards. In order to be competitive, the City’s bid would have had to be at a level that was not sustainable from the revenues generated directly from the hydro plant. In other words, the City did not believe it would be able to obtain the hydro plant at a price at which it could “pay for itself” from the electricity generated there. The risk that the cost of acquiring and operating the plant might fall back on property tax payers in the City was too great.
RIVER PROPERTY & “AREA C”
Q: What is happening with the 22-acre Ford property along the Mississippi River, which contains a concrete parking pad and a former steam plant and the waste water treatment plant?
At this time, Ford’s river property is not included in the planning study area. Ford is evaluating reuse opportunities for the steam and waste water treatment plants. The concrete pad, known as “Area C,” is the cap on a former dump. The environmental condition of “Area C” is being closely investigated by Ford under guidance by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Q: I have an idea about the site. How can I still get involved in the planning process or to be notified about upcoming events?
You are invited to share your comments or thoughts on the project by emailing the City at FordSitePlanning@ci.stpaul.mn.us. We also welcome you to sign up to receive meeting notices and future updates here. You can find public meeting schedules and review previous materials from previous meetings and public hearings here.
Q. If I have more questions, who do I contact?
9/27/17 - Saint Paul City Council Approves Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan
8/21/17 - City Council to Hold Public Hearing on September 20 for Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan
7/28/17 - City of Saint Paul Planning Commission recommends approval of Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan
5/11/17 - City of Saint Paul Planning Commission to open public comment period on future use of the Ford Site
11/14/16 - City holds public meeting to update community and gather initial feedback on a preliminary framework plan for the Ford Site
6/23/16 - No surprises in environmental analysis – mixed-use planning to advance at former Ford Site in Saint Paul