St. Paul task force aims for 'sustainable' use of Ford site

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2011 - 4:40 PM

The Ranger manufacturing plant is scheduled to close later this year.

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The Twin Cities Ford Assembly Plant, along the Mississippi River in St. Paul

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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With the St. Paul Ford plant destined to close this year, the 144-acre site offers "unparalleled" opportunity for sustainable development in a high-profile neighborhood, according to a city report released Monday.

The chief goal for the site is firm: cutting-edge environmental design.

The St. Paul Ford Site Task Force issued the report, which aims to set redevelopment "performance thresholds" and to inspire policymakers and developers to make the site a model for brownfield (possibly contaminated industrial land) redevelopment.

Discussion of how to best use and pay for the site could last years.

Coupling the latest report with a previous engineering report on stormwater runoff at the site, Mayor Chris Coleman said, "These reports provide the foundation for St. Paul to work with Ford and developers to pursue and implement a high level of sustainability at the Ford site ... that benefits both the environment and the community."

Ford Motor Co. owns the property and selling rights. It is expected to put the site up for sale in early 2012.

Monday's report said development "will balance economic, social and environmental sustainability in a way that conserves and improves the Highland Park neighborhood and Mississippi River Valley corridor."

The plant currently produces Ranger pickups, which will stop when the plant closes.

Last fall, Coleman and then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty went to Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., offering incentives to keep the plant open. But Ford declined, stressing its need for sites capable of around-the-clock production of different vehicles.

The report suggests a collaborative approach to the redevelopment, integrating construction, energy, transportation, waste, open space and recreation. Its authors call for loosening zoning rules to allow maximum design flexibility.

Sustainable building design costs more, the report said, but reaps "higher building market values and demand for the properties; lower operating costs; extended life; and increased worker productivity."

The Highland District Council's community organizer declined to comment on the report Monday.

Rochelle Olson • 651-735-9749 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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