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St. Paul unveils zoning plan for Ford site

The city of St. Paul is envisioning the Ford redevelopment site with 4,000 multifamily units, office and commercial space to attract 1,500 workers, cyclists, pedestrians — and very little visible parking.

St. Paul planners on Monday night unveiled their zoning and public realm vision for the 122-acre Ford site overlooking the Mississippi River in the Highland Park neighborhood.

Below the site is a layer of bedrock that will complicate underground parking, the city staff told residents and developers Monday. Even so, the city’s vision would limit any surface lots to 20 spots each and lean heavily on district parking ramps shared by businesses for different uses throughout the day.

The zoning proposal for the site at 2180 Ford Parkway was a product of years of planning, public feedback sessions and revisions, said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

The cleanup and planning process have been “filled with surprises – some not so pleasant,” he said. “We’ve still got a long way to go … but we’re getting closer … but most importantly we’re getting it right.”

About 400 attendees showed up Monday to hear about the zoning plans at the O’Shaughnessy Education Center on the University of St. Thomas campus in St. Paul. The land is currently being cleaned of contaminants, a process that is expected to last through 2017 and possibly into 2018, according to Ford Land, which currently owns the property. Mike Hogan, property manager for Ford Land, attended the meeting but did not speak.

The Minneapolis office of CBRE will begin marketing the property to a master developer near the end of the cleanup process and construction is expected to start as early as 2020, according to city documents.

The Ford site will have six zoning districts that will include multifamily units, office and commercial space next to mixed-use districts that are expected to attract up to 1,500 new jobs to the area.

Zoning plans show space for up to 4,000 multifamily units throughout the old industrial site that used to manufacture Ford Ranger trucks. Parks and ballfields will also dot the site. Stormwater would be managed through a central water feature running north and south across the property.

The city isn’t calling for any single-family housing, in part because area residents have been adamant about wanting apartments or condos, especially for retirees, City Council Member Chris Tolbert said during a question-and-answer portion of the meeting. Residents have told him to prioritize parks, ballfields and apartments or condos, he said.

“There hasn’t been a week since I started running for office … that has gone by that someone hasn’t said [they want] one of those things, or all three of those things to me,” he said.

Proposed housing types outlined in the zoning plan range from multifamily buildings that look like small mansions overlooking the river, to townhomes or condos and apartment buildings as high as 10 stories. The structures’ heights would start at about two stories closest to the river, with the tallest buildings near the center of the development.

If the property is fully built out according to the vision, it is expected to bring in more than 20 times the amount of tax revenue annually than it did as an industrial manufacturing plant, city documents show. The site brought in about $1.1 million in tax revenue as a Ford plant, and it is projected to bring in around $22.3 million annually once finished.

“The industrial site and the jobs that we had there were valuable to the area,” Tolbert said. “But it’s not necessarily the highest and best use of that land, and that’s really what we have been talking about.”

Planners and neighbors have said they hope the site will develop into a community that allows workers and residents to rely on transit, walking and bicycling as much as possible.

The site will be served by the A Line bus rapid transit route, which runs between Rosedale Center in Roseville and the 46th Street Station on the Blue Line light rail in Minneapolis.

Planners for the proposed Riverview Corridor – a BRT or LRT transit line from downtown St. Paul to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – also are looking at the Ford site. The line, which is about a decade away from implementation, could come into the site via the right of way of an unused Canadian-Pacific Railway rail spur on the property. Planners are also looking at a potential route down busy West Seventh Street in St. Paul that could bring the line to the Ford site.

Trails and bike paths are expected to weave throughout the site, including along the rail spur.  Some of the main thoroughfares on the property will include dedicated bike lanes.

But there will be room for parking.

Overall, the city estimates that about 37 percent of the development on the site will be made up of parking, either in parking structures or in ramps tucked into buildings.

The 20-space limit in any surface parking lots probably won’t be popular with many retailers, Merritt Clapp-Smith, principal planner for the city, acknowledged Monday. But the restriction would promote the city and neighborhood goals for the site.

“Parking should be provided to accommodate cars here but not to encourage them,” she said.

The city gave residents a brief overview of transportation plans Monday, but will dive into the details around the planned road system, bike paths and transportation studies at another public meeting on Nov. 21 at Lumen Christi Catholic Community, at 2055 Bohland Ave. in St. Paul.


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