Two-year reprieve provides redevelopment breathing room

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 24, 2008 - 8:37 PM

Ford's new position draws favorable reaction from task force members considering future uses for the property.

The fate of five possible redevelopment scenarios for the Ford plant property in St. Paul fell into limbo Thursday, after the company announced that it would keep assembling Ranger pickups in the city through 2011. But those involved in the plans welcomed the news.

"Having the plant open for an additional ... [two] years gives everyone time to look at the plant, look at the site, and see what's the best thing going forward," said Peter Armstrong, a resident of the Highland Park neighborhood who serves on a city task force planning for a post-Ford era.

The task force and city and state officials will continue studying options for the property, said Cecile Bedor, St. Paul's planning and economic development director. "These folks have spent a lot of time coming up with thoughtful plans," she said.

St. Paul officials have called for redevelopment proposals that take into account traffic, tax revenue, public transit and jobs. Ideas floated so far include recycling the land for industrial use, developing an office park, building a mix of low- to higher-density residential buildings and creating a technology and light-manufacturing center.

Deborah Karasov, one of the task force members, said Ford's extension is good news for workers and St. Paul's economy, but also ensures more time for an environmental review of the land. "I'm just elated," said Karasov, executive director of Great River Greening. "This is a remarkable opportunity to have time to do it right."

Residents have expressed concern about cleanup of the 83-year-old site if Ford leaves. A study of the land submitted to city and state officials last fall said investigators identified about a dozen areas that are polluted enough to require further study and possible cleanup.

But on Thursday, neighbors and businesses said Ford has been a good corporate neighbor and community benefactor and they were happy to see the plant continue production.

"The majority of the people in the neighborhood would like to see the plant stay open," said Blake Montpetit, owner of Tiffany Sports Lounge in Highland Park. "We're obviously happy for all the workers down there. It's been such a big part of our business community here that we'd like to see the plant open beyond 2011."

Neighborhood resident Carole Faricy, a co-chair of the redevelopment task force, said many members had mixed feelings about making plans for the eventual loss of Ford Motor Co. in St. Paul. "Many of us were well aware of what Ford had done for the community," she said. "If they want to keep going [beyond 2011] and produce hybrids there, that would be wonderful."

But Bedor said that talk concerning specific plans for the property would be premature now.

"There's definitely a need for state leadership on the matter."

Kevin Giles • 651-298-1554

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