Ryan Cos., the Minneapolis-based developer behind Downtown East, CHS Field and other major projects, will develop the high-density urban village envisioned for the former Ford site in St. Paul.

The choice of a developer is the latest step toward transforming the 122-acre parcel in the Highland Park neighborhood, where concerned residents are closely monitoring the project.

In a news release Monday, Ryan officials said the company “will immediately begin an extensive due diligence period to understand the history and complexities of the site” and work with the city on a detailed development plan.

“We know this will not be a small undertaking,” Mike Ryan, market leader for Ryan Cos. North region, said in a statement Monday. “What is safe to say is that the surrounding neighborhoods, institutions, retail amenities, parks, and access to both downtowns and the airport are exceptional, and adding to them is our overarching priority.”

Also in a statement Monday, Mayor Melvin Carter said Ryan Cos. “will be a great partner” in realizing the city’s vision for “a connected, livable and sustainable development that serves the needs of our growing 21st global community.”

In recent years, Ryan Cos. has developed high-profile projects across the country, including Downtown East, a $588 million mixed-use project flanking U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis; Marina Heights, the largest office development in Arizona history; and Kirkland Urban, a pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development that will become the new city center for Kirkland, Wash.

The St. Paul City Council last year approved a master plan for the Ford site, complete with zoning for multifamily housing, parks and transit access. The idea of high-density development on a site once dedicated to manufacturing the Ford Ranger pickup has divided residents and even spawned a petition to put a repeal of the plan on the ballot this fall.

Jimm Crowder, who’s lived on Mount Curve Boulevard in St. Paul for more than 30 years, said Monday he’s concerned about pollution and traffic from the development. Both “add up to disaster” for the project and, among other reasons, have made him consider moving away.

“If I thought it was going to happen tomorrow, I would,” he said.

Longtime resident Tina Fahnestock, a speech and language pathologist at Highland Park Senior High School, said she’s happy to hear about progress at the Ford site. Green space, new traffic routes and a plan for growth in the area are sorely needed, she said.

“We’ve got to move on,” Fahnestock said. “We’ve got to think about the future. I don’t want it to go to waste, and I don’t want it to sit vacant.”

The property, south of Ford Parkway along the Mississippi River, went on the market in December. Construction could begin as soon as 2020, according to a tentative timeline from the city.

City and neighborhood leaders — even those who have expressed skepticism about plans for the site — applauded the choice of Ryan Cos.

“A highly reputable, experienced, local developer is a positive outcome,” said Council Member Jane Prince, who was one of two members to vote against the site plan. “I hope they’ll be willing to work closely with the community to create a plan that really works and takes into account the exceptional location on the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.”

Council Member Chris Tolbert, who voted in favor of the plan and whose ward includes the Ford site, said in a statement that the selection of Ryan Cos. “is another important step in the process of successfully and thoughtfully redeveloping the Ford site.”

“We look forward to working with Ryan Companies to ensure that the master development plans fit within the neighborhood’s and city’s vision and framework for the future of this unique site,” he said.

Ryan Cos. declined to give further details about the project Monday. A representative from Ford did not respond to requests for comment.

The Ford site redevelopment would be one of Ryan’s largest projects, although the company has played major roles in high-profile local developments including the W Minneapolis-The Foshay in downtown Minneapolis, Midtown Exchange in south Minneapolis and CHS Field in St. Paul’s Lowertown.

Last month, Ryan revealed plans for a 163-apartment complex with co-working and retail space at the site of O’Gara’s restaurant on Snelling and Selby avenues in St. Paul and is in the final planning stages of a 39-story condo tower on the Minneapolis riverfront.

Kathy Carruth, executive director of the Highland District Council, said hours before the announcement, “I’m hoping and praying that it’s Ryan Companies. They have good working relationships with others in the community. And just having somebody local, instead of an out-of-town developer, is just night and day.”

“I guess we are all kind of excited to see something happening,” she said.

 

Staff writer Chris Bowling contributed to this report.