Several hundred residents and planning officials gathered Monday evening to learn how cars, mass transit, bikes and pedestrians will fit in with the ambitious redevelopment of the former Ford plant site in St. Paul.
The results of a recent transportation study are highly preliminary for the 122-acre site where Ford once produced cars and trucks on the shores of the Mississippi River. Opened in 1926, the plant was closed in 2011.
The city plans to build multifamily housing, a park and green space, and a busy commercial district.
The Ford Motor Co. plant site long has “been a barrier to movement,” said City Planner Merritt Clapp-Smith. Traffic in the neighborhood essentially stops at the site, which was closed to non-plant traffic.
This has created a serious traffic bottleneck at the intersection of Cleveland Av. and Ford Parkway in the Highland Park neighborhood, also a popular area for pedestrians.
Broadly speaking, streets that now dead-end on Ford Parkway would connect through the new development, dispersing traffic throughout the area.
Cretin Av. and Montreal Av. would serve as primary streets. And the inactive Canadian Pacific Railway spur likely would become some type of thoroughfare for bikes and pedestrians.
While the site already is well-served by several Metro Transit bus routes, including the new A-line rapid bus, it’s unclear how the proposed Riverview Corridor transit project along West 7th Street would connect with the Ford site. The Riverview project involves transit, possibly bus, bus-rapid transit or light rail, that would connect Union Depot in downtown St. Paul to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Those attending the meeting were asked to submit comments on various transportation proposals for the Ford site. No decisions were made at the meeting. Clapp-Smith said another transportation study will be completed before the start of any construction of roads or paths.
A formal master plan for the entire site will be presented to the city’s Planning Commission next spring and to the City Council during the summer of 2017. Final adoption is expected in late summer or early fall.
Officials have said that they plan to begin marketing the site to a master developer in late 2017 or early 2018.
Currently the company is cleaning up the site, a process that began in 2012. Once that is done, it will be sold to a developer, probably in 2019.
City officials say the mixed use and the density of dwellers on the property will support transit “through and around” the site. The area is bordered by Ford Parkway, Cleveland Av. and Mississippi River Boulevard.
Planners have called for an interconnected system of streets, bikeways and walkways that is safe and accessible for people of various ages and abilities. The idea is to reduce the number of trips taken by car, and manage the impact of traffic.