St. Paul’s next mayor will take office at a critical time for the soccer stadium and Ford site developments, two of the biggest projects in the city in decades.
The five candidates outlined their visions for the properties and concerns about neighborhood impacts at a Midway Chamber of Commerce forum Wednesday.
Candidate Dai Thao, a City Council member whose ward includes the Snelling-Midway property where the Major League Soccer stadium will be, has backed the project. The stadium is going to create jobs, he said, adding that mom-and-pop shops should be part of the mixed-use development planned on the 34.5 acres at Snelling and University avenues. The stadium will take up about a third of that site.
On the other end was Tom Goldstein, a longtime critic of stadiums in the city. He said they historically have not created jobs and he would prefer to see a corporate campus or business incubator on the site.
Pat Harris, along with other candidates, said neighborhood residents need to be employed in the process of redeveloping that site. It should contain unique businesses, Harris said, and cannot become “another cookie-cutter stadium village.”
Elizabeth Dickinson, a Green Party candidate, emphasized the need for parks there. Residents should be involved in the city’s zoning and design process, she said, and zoning should drive development.
She said businesses coming into the development should provide living wages. The $15 minimum wage has come up at three mayoral forums in the past week, and all candidates said they generally support it.
As for the Ford site, candidate Melvin Carter III said he doesn’t want to artificially cap development at the 122-acre site in response to concerns about congestion. Rather, he said the area should be well-connected to the rest of the city via transit and bike routes.
The city has proposed adding up to 4,000 housing units at the large piece of land on the city’s western edge, previously home to a vehicle assembly plant. Some Highland Park residents around the property have raised concerns about the neighborhood impact of adding that much housing.
At a recent community meeting on the Ford site, some people suggested micro-apartments, Dickinson said. She said the idea is worth looking into, and the units could serve millennials and older adults.
Both she and Harris said parkland is also critical there.
Harris said the city should look into adding more parkland, cautioning against development that’s too dense.
“What you do cannot choke the neighborhood streets, cannot choke the city, cannot reduce property value surrounding the site,” he said.
The city should respect the desires of the community living by the site and build the tax base without overburdening the neighborhood, Thao said.
Goldstein said St. Paul should focus on bringing jobs back to the area, which he said would result in less traffic than a mixed-use village.