Design standards for how the public interacts with a developed Ford site — from how people move through the site to how its buildings, townhouses, apartments and office complexes look from the street — were the subject of a public hearing Wednesday and will be up for a vote next week by the St. Paul City Council.
Nobody from the public showed up.
That doesn't mean the public hasn't been interested, said city planner Mike Richardson. During years of discussions and months of intensive meetings, the public has weighed in on what they wanted to see at the 122-acre former auto manufacturing complex and what they wanted it to look like. What city planners and Ryan Cos., the master developer, have arrived at is a goal to make the remade site pedestrian-friendly while also creating a unique "sense of place," Richardson said.
Dealing with a range of things from types of facades allowed in different zones to where doors should be placed on buildings depending on the area a building faces, much of the draft standards involve a technical minutiae most people probably aren't following.
But it's important work that will ensure consistency of design, the quality of building materials and the overall aesthetic, he said.
"This really covers open spaces, building faces and all the spaces in between," said Richardson, who has worked on the Ford site for the past five years and on the design standards since November 2018.
Tony Barranco, Ryan's senior vice president of development and the only person to get up to speak at the public hearing, said Ryan supports amendments that have been made to the standards to ensure consistency with the city's master plan.
For months, Ryan officials have worked with city planners, the Highland Business Association, design experts and neighborhood architects to help develop high-quality standards, said City Council Member Chris Tolbert, who represents Highland Park.
Officials with the city's Parks and Recreation Department and Public Works will work to ensure the development's green spaces and public areas — including a highly anticipated stormwater feature that will flow across the site and feed Hidden Falls near the river — remain accessible to the public, Richardson said.
"This sets the edges for that to happen," he said of the design standards, which the council is expected to vote on Sept. 11.
In the master plan for the site, approved in September 2017, city leaders envision a modern urban, mixed-use development that combines commercial space and housing with new parks and green space.
Ryan intends to build more than 3,800 units of housing, including senior housing, 35 large single-family homes along Mississippi River Boulevard and more than 760 units of affordable housing throughout.
Ryan's plan calls for 10% of the homes on the site to be affordable to people making 30% of the area median income or less, 5% to those making 50% or less and 5% to those making 60% or less. The 2017 area median income is $90,400 for a family of four.
Ryan officials have requested $107 million in public subsidies to help develop the affordable housing, as well as the site's infrastructure. City hearings on the request have not yet been held.
Officials have said the site, when fully developed, could someday be worth more than $1.4 billion.