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The Ford Plant photographed from a helicopter on Thursday, December 1, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn.

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Richard Palmiter, CBRE

, Star Tribune

Feb. 11, 2012: Marketing a unique parcel: St. Paul's Ford plant

  • Article by: JANET MOORE
  • Star Tribune
  • September 4, 2014 - 3:40 PM

"Richard is not important," says Richard Palmiter, a veteran real estate broker at CBRE Corp., the national real estate firm with a local office in Bloomington. "It's all about our group."

Maybe, but Palmiter and Co. have been chosen by a subsidiary of Ford Motor Co. to market the former Ford plant site in St. Paul to a potential developer. The 122-acre parcel, located smack dab in the middle of one of the Twin Cities' most-desirable neighborhoods, is an empty canvas for a creative plan involving some type of mixed-used development. The truck plant closed for good late last year after 86 years.

The variety and creativity is what Palmiter, 64, likes about his job. "It's a very meaningful profession to be in," he says. "You try to bring people together. It's challenging and exciting, just pick the adjective and it will work."

Palmiter has been in the real estate field for more than 20 years and in the past two years, he has facilitated transactions with the FDIC, national and regional banks, national builders looking to sell off their oversupply of land, finance companies and investors looking for sound investments, as well as companies that are downsizing.

But the Ford deal is certainly one of the biggest he's ever worked on. "When you add up all the numbers when this thing gets finalized, years out in the future it total hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions," he says. "But everything starts out with the land."

Through an e-mail interview, Palmiter discussed his involvement with the project.

QFord recently confirmed that you will serve as the broker to market the now-abandoned Ford site in St. Paul. What does that job entail?

AI prepare marketing materials and market the property to local and national developers and users. I also answer questions from prospective purchasers and assist in property tours and I'll assist in the negotiation of the purchase contract and in resolving closing issues.

QWhat sort of interest do you expect from the development community?

AAs the economy continues to improve, we expect interest in the site to be very strong. We are fortunate to have excellent local developers who are very capable to manage a development as large as the Ford site. That being said, the appeal of this opportunity will draw interest from national developers, as well. In the end, we are sure that this property will attract the best of the best developers.

QWhat role does the community play in the process? The city of St. Paul?

AOver the past five years, Ford has taken a very proactive position in working with the city of St. Paul, the community task force and neighborhood groups to prepare an outline of what the Ford site might become. All of this work will be of great assistance to the purchaser as they move forward with the city approval process. It is clear that this process of working with the community and city will continue.

QYou recently said that the Ford site, along with the Arden Hills munitions plant and Mall of America expansion, are examples of other large tracts left to develop in the Twin Cities seven-county metro area. What does that say about the future of commercial real estate development for the cities?

AThe future of commercial real estate development in the Twin Cities is very good with solid fundamentals such as infrastructure, transportation, employment and work ethic. Since there are relatively few large vacant land sites available for development, redevelopment such as the Ford site represents the future of commercial development. Recent examples of this include the Brookdale Mall being redeveloped into a new Wal-Mart; Highcrest Park, which included the demolition of a 700,000 office/warehouse building and the land that is now being sold off to users such as FedEx, Airgas, Certifit, and the former Jaguar dealership in downtown Minneapolis that will become a luxury apartment building with a Whole Foods grocery store.

QIn your opinion, what type of development would work at the Ford site?

AThe type of development will depend on environmental conditions of the site, market conditions and community input. We believe that a mix-use development would be consistent with the neighborhood and be well-received with the development community.

QHow is the Ford site unusual?

ALocated in the heart of the Twin Cities, the Ford site offers a unique opportunity of being situated on the Mississippi River within close proximity of St. Paul, Minneapolis and the International Airport. The Highland Park neighborhood offers an established residential and retail base from which to build.

QWhat about the MnSCU training building? Will it be preserved?

AWe are still evaluating options for this building, but the options could include demolition.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752

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