St. Paul Outlines Ford Site Sustainability Goals

A report by a city task force focuses on how to achieve three levels of sustainability-economic, social, and environmental-for future development of the Ford plant site.

A City of St. Paul task force on Monday released what it describes as “an aggressive sustainable redevelopment agenda” for the site currently occupied by a Ford Motor Company plant; Ford has operated the facility for more than 80 years but has plans to shutter it by the end of this year.

The report was created by the Ford Site Sustainable Redevelopment team, which is funded by the Minnesota Pollution Control agency. The report outlines sustainability goals for the site, which includes 122 acres occupied by Ford's operations and a 22-acre parcel near the Mississippi River.

“This site offers an unparalleled opportunity in the Twin Cities to redevelop a large piece of land in the heart of a vibrant and successful neighborhood and adjacent to the Mississippi River and to do so in a way that respects the history and context of the neighborhood, while designing a thriving community that significantly lowers its impact on the environment,” the report states.

The report's goals are somewhat vague, but they focus on three levels of sustainability: economic, social, and environmental. The report encourages a development that fosters a range of living-wage jobs and housing types, includes a diverse population and a variety of businesses, and adds a significant tax base to support services for the community. It aims to reduce vehicle travel by designing a model attractive to pedestrians and other transportation alternatives, and it encourages exercise- and recreation-friendly spaces.

For environmental strategies, the task force emphasizes energy conservation among buildings at the site, stating that buildings together comprise the single biggest user of energy and emitters of carbon dioxide. It also encourages on-site energy generation, waste reduction, recycling, and “best practice management of stormwater.”

“Redeveloping the Ford site will take time, which provides a great opportunity to engage in a public-private development and implementation process that matches the sophistication and high standards of the project desired,” the report states.

It includes a handful of general strategies for implementing a sustainable model, including an emphasis on “integrated design”-where all aspects of the project are designed to complement one another-and linking sustainable standards to incentives.

“The City of St. Paul should begin work now to draft a thoughtful set of possible financial and non-monetary incentives that are linked to clearly defined performance outcomes,” the report states.

It encourages development in phases, allowing for a “gradual, organic succession of small projects, versus large, awkward, adjacent, but separate phases.” It also acknowledges that sustainability goals may be impeded by existing zoning laws, stating that “a different type of zoning approach for the site may be necessary.”

Although a tentative timeline on the city's Web site indicates that the planning process and its implementation could take years, the sustainability report recommends discussions around its goals with Ford, community members, various city departments, and other stakeholders to get input on the recommendations.

The full 60-page sustainability report-as well as a previously released report about stormwater runoff at the site-are available here.

The Ford plant has been a part of St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood for more than 80 years. Ford announced in 2006 that it planned to close the plant by 2008 but later said it would remain open until the end of 2011.

Then-Governor Tim Pawlenty and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman traveled to Michigan in August in an attempt to persuade Ford officials to keep its St. Paul plant open-but their efforts were unsuccessful.