What should be done with St. Paul’s Ford plant?

The Ford Motor Company is getting ready to put its Twin Cities Assembly Plant up for sale. After the final Ranger pickup rolls off the line next month, the 86-year-old factory will close for good, leaving St. Paul with 135 acres of land in a good location. Today’s Question: What should be done with St. Paul’s Ford plant?

  • Sara

    That would depend on the condition of the plant and whether or not there is any contamination on the site.

    I doubt the plant will be saved to become a museum or school. I suspect it will be sold to the highest bidder and the site developed with expensive apartments boasting river views.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Why are you asking a bunch of amateur opinionators? If it currently belongs to Ford and they’re selling it, presumably to the highest bidder, isn’t that up to whatever entity buys it?

  • Emery

    That particular piece of real estate is valuable to a developer as well as St. Paul (tax revenue). This is quite an opportunity for the right developer.

  • Bill

    I think Ford should start building an electric only car which will get 150 miles on a charge. Even if the lithium-ion battery pack was “big” it would beat out the competition.

    Ford could take over the car industry if they made a “cheap” electric only. They did it once with the Model T, they are in the position to do it again.

  • uptownZombie

    Make it the biggest Chinese food restaurant in the world. 🙂

  • GaryF

    I’ve been to a few of the meetings seeing I live in Highland Park.

    Baseball fields. The Highland Park Little League/Hi-Tower Babe Ruth has never had an official contract for those fields with Ford. It has been a gentleman’s handshake deal for the last 50+ years.

    Many of the plans call for NOT replacing the three existing fields which would be a complete failure if they were not replaced.

    No plan has MORE than three fields. The girl’s softball division of HPLL/HTBR doesn’t even play on these fields seeing they are booked solid every evening/weekend during the season.The girls play on a variety of fields across Highland Park/Mac Groveland. More fields are required to incorporate the girl’s program with the guys.

    Much of the southern half of the property cannot be developed because its either too close to the river or too close to airport. THIS IS WHERE MORE FIELDS NEED TO GO. There has been talk about “Greenspace”. Well under the St Paul Charter, ball fields can be counted as greenspace. With Hidden Falls Park, Minnehaha Park, Mississippi River road, we have plenty of nice places to take a walk/bike, we don’t have enough places to have kids sports.

    My kid had his last year of Babe Ruth this year, I have no dog in the fight except that if St Paul is to compete with the suburbs to attract new families, we need the recreation space.

    I’m not sure what you put there. I’m thinking housing. The problem is, that’s a lot of new traffic for an already congested neighborhood.

    For all the people that think they are going to build something there have to realize.

    A. there is no direct freeway access

    B. the train line runs directly through residential neighborhoods, which the neighborhoods have put severe restrictions on when the train can run.

    C. Any sort of noise or smells would not fly in that neighborhood.

    Why would you want to build something there when it’s much easier to move to an industrial park with freeway access? Ford, because they have been there for almost 100 years has slowly adjusted to the neighborhood. Do you know that they ship and receive most of their product at 2-3 AM? What business would want to do that today?

    With a bad economy and plenty of more business friendly areas readily available, it isn’t going to be easy.

  • GaryF

    “Why are you asking a bunch of amateur opinionators? If it currently belongs to Ford and they’re selling it, presumably to the highest bidder, isn’t that up to whatever entity buys it?”

    Yes, that is true. Problem is, Ford would have to sell it to someone who would have to keep the whole property under the same zoning laws. They cant sell this white elephant to anybody who would want to keep it as is. It is worth much more being used for mixed development, then the zoning rules changes, and the city can micro manage any new landowner.

    Three problems folks…………

    A. In a bad economy, there is way, way too many better places to move your factory to.

    B. We want to build MORE housing today, when so many houses on still up for sale.

    C. We have no money, at the city, county, state, and federal level. Just how much are we going to subsidize with borrowed money? Solyndra comes to mind.

    It aint easy folks.

  • How about manufacturing cars at the Ford plant?

    The Federal Government should scuttle plans to buy 2,443 Lockheed F-35 multi-strike fighters at an estimated cost of $1,000,000,000,000 (One trillion)… then use some of that massive taxpayer windfall to re-fit the Ford plant to produce electric cars with recyclable batteries.

    Green jobs baby! Booyah to naysayers.

  • Steve the Cynic

    More little league ball fields, GaryF? Wouldn’t that involve some kind of socialistic gummint program? I would have expected you to say, if the Free Market won’t do it, it’s not worth doing.

  • GaryF

    “More little league ball fields, GaryF? Wouldn’t that involve some kind of socialistic gummint program? I would have expected you to say, if the Free Market won’t do it, it’s not worth doing.”

    Right now the plan is no. The land will belong to a private developer. The land may continue to be owned by the single private developer or it could be sold off in pieces. The government would not own any of the land except for the plan to have Montreal avenue continue through to the river parkway and any other roads that are needed.

    The private developer(s) are forced by law to have a certain amount of greenspace as part of their plan. The fields, by law, fit into that. They would stay on the property of the private developer and a deal would have to be make between HPLL/HTBR and the company that owns the property. They probably won’t name the fields “Ranger” or as in the past “Torino” or “Pinto” fields and will probably change names to reflect the new owner.

  • david

    Since it’s sooo impractical I wonder why ziggy doesn’t want to put a stadium there.

    It’ll just become mixed use development, residential/retail. Traffic is way to congested there to do much more. Hopefully like Gary said the city can negotiate someway to keep the ball fields and even expand them. Most cities require developers to set aside so much area for green space, I think a ball park should count. The train track would make for a nice bike path to down town too.

    Before Ford sold off the dam, I thought it would be a great marketing deal to convert the plant to hybrid/electric car development. St. Paul even wanted to subsidize it. That would really one-up Subaru’s zero landfill plant deal. Zero emissions plant and products. Seemed short term penny foolish when they sold that. From what I heard they actually made money selling the surplus electricity to the neighborhood.

    Sad to see it go. Bought a Ranger built there years ago and was the most reliable vehicle I ever owned.

  • Todd

    Despite the obvious constriction of funds with which to work, this must be an urban palnners dream. What an opportunity! The poor economy should make any sale price a bargain, but the likelihood of a public/private partnership seems high, with the public minimizing risk and the private reducing cost. Imagine a mixed use with the existing structure altered to provide wide public concourses and the interior secrtioned off into small business incubators for commerical, light industrial, crafts, and services. Units could be designed to be easily expandable and rents based on square footage plus a percentage of revenue. Can those tunnels be made safe? If so, the potential exists for a unique attraction: underground skateboard park or nightclub or who knows what. The private developer would receive right to develop appropriate mixed residential/commercial around the property possibly linked to the plant by covered arcades. Huge potential for this site, but realistically even the smallest progress seems 5-10 years out under current conditions.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “The private developer(s) are forced by law to have a certain amount of greenspace as part of their plan.”

    Isn’t that the kind of over-reaching, oppressive government regulation you usually oppose, GaryF? Or is it different because it’s in your neighborhood?

  • GaryF

    “Isn’t that the kind of over-reaching, oppressive government regulation you usually oppose, GaryF? Or is it different because it’s in your neighborhood?”

    Yes, it makes it harder to sell and develop the land whether in my neighborhood or someone else’s.

    Right now, it looks like that is the only option. So, I have no pull or influence on it and not much I can do.

    There was talk years ago of getting big dollars from some of St Paul’s baseball finest to buy the property, which would be best, because then it would be assured as a baseball site and in direct ownership.

    Jack Morris and Jack Hannahan are both major league players who have come out of HPLL/HTBR. Joe Mauer, Dave Winfield, and Paul Molitor may have played a game at the fields but were not part of the HPLL/HTBR.

  • david

    Don’t worry Steve, most developers weasel out of the green space (and LEED) requirements by slipping a few buck over the table, and one can only assume a few more under it.

  • Paul

    I’d love to see the whole thing become a park and open space, but I suppose that is too much to hope for.

  • GaryF

    The site has no direct freeway access. You have to cross the Mississippi River bridge from Minneapolis, which also has no direct freeway access, or drive up Cretin/Cleveland Avenues to I-94, which are also very congested now, or south on St Paul Avenue to Highway 5 which is already congested.

    It’s going to be real challenge, whether for business or the people that already live there.

  • Chris

    It should be retrofitted to make chevys. Show Ford what a mistake it was to close. Or do what the repubs would do and sell it to China.

  • Lance

    So, yes, Ford should do whatever it chooses to do with it, being that they own the property.

    That being said, does that huge rail spur belong to Ford also? Because, if you’re concerned about access, there doesn’t appear to be anyone else with a spur there between at least Fort Rd. and the Ford plant. It would make a heck of a nice wide road – just sayin’.

  • P. Nielsen

    Certainly no more expensive housing stock should go on that property, there is enough of that for several lifetimes. My grandfather worked there from it’s opening in 1924 until 1960 when he retired……..there is an emotional tie there because of that. I feel most of that property should remain as green, open space available to all people, not just a few.

  • Disco

    Interesting ideas being suggested here.

    Here’s my prediction: nothing will happen. Ford will close the plant, maybe do some demolition, and that will be it. The land will sit and sit and sit. No one knows what kind of pollution is in the ground there. That won’t help.

    Like GaryF said, there’s no freeway access. It is an incredibly difficult area to reach by car (I should know — my clinic is over there).

    Either way, if something ever IS built there, you can rest assured that it will not provide jobs that pay what Ford pays. We’ll wind up with yet another Starbucks.

  • kimMN

    It is a sad thing to see the plant gone however, FORD built its most recent plant in Mexico because of one fact, according to FORD press releases, the new US corporate taxes and the regulations in assembly process and the biggest factor was the cheaper costs in Mexico vs UAW union demands.

    Obama has let MN down in so many ways. His people in the National Labor Relations Board, another useless bloated agency that has no Constitutional authority admitted this week to their interference to thwart Boeing building in SC.

    Where does it end? With 30% unemployment so there are more Progressives on welfare to want to keep the current administration in power to ensure their entitlement mooching? People want real jobs, not some wasteful part time government paid job caulking a few home windows under the green energy loans.

    Here is the “reputable” NLRB story on Solomon. Makes one sick as we see FORD closing our MN plant.

    “New documents obtained by Judicial Watch show acting National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Lafe Solomon joking that the NLRB’s suit against Boeing would kill jobs in South Carolina. Commenting on a Planet Labor article whose headline suggests Boeing might not be able to open its new plant in South Carolina because of “antiunion behavior,” Solomon writes:

    The article gave me a new idea. You go to Geneva and I get a job with Airbus. We screwed up the US economy and now we can tackle Europe.

    Solomon goes on to complain that Obama NLRB nominee Craig Becker may be getting the credit for the Boeing suit: “I didn’t read all of the meltwater articles but some of the headlines tie Boeing to Craig. Unbelievable.”

    THIS is what happens when a federal agency as the NLRB is, acts with impunity and full support of Obama.

  • There’s a group of green designers, community developers, labor groups, and neighbors developing a vision for this site that would bring high-paying green jobs to the site while integrating mixed-income housing, open space, and on-site clean energy production. This emerging coalition is called ARISE, and has been doing research and site planning and building relationships between community members, the City, and designers since 2007. The community engagement piece got kicked off this past summer. To the comments about why this makes a difference since Ford owns it:

    1. The City of St. Paul controls rezoning of the site, which constrains what type of development is done on the site – by working together, we can help St. Paul shape this zoning in the favor of a better future for the site.

    2. Urban infill developers often run into backlash for their plans and face opposition. If we can create a development team that links large developers with the ability to develop 140 acres with local groups in green design, transit-oriented development, urban greenspace, and mixed-income housing that is attentive to and supported by the community, they have a better shot at pulling off their vision.

    3. Ford itself is interested in sustainable and mixed-use redevelopment of its facilities. They have done similar projects converting old plants to manufacture clean energy technology and sustainable vehicles in Georgia and Michigan.

    The site has so many amenities that make it so much more valuable than a single use. It has a heavy rail spur (and space for light rail) that could make transporting both manufacturing inputs and finished products less intrusively than truck traffic as well as connecting residences on site to long-term transit options. It has 18MW of clean hydro-power on the river and 3 miles of 10-foot diameter sand tunnels under the site that could be used for ground source heat (low cost clean energy). It’s right next to the existing Ford Pkwy business corridor, and only minutes from an International Airport. It’s an incredible opportunity to do something new and innovative that creates well-paying jobs through clean industry (this could also make the pollution issues easier to remediate than if used only for parkland or residential), vibrant commercial/residential communities that are economically accessible and powered by efficient transportation and clean energy. My description above is a super quick summary of years of detailed planning and research.

    ARISE is looking for more folks to join in making this vision a reality. Contact mnarise@gmail.com or (708) ARISE-44 to get in touch.

  • GaryF

    “Ford will close the plant, maybe do some demolition, and that will be it. The land will sit and sit and sit. No one knows what kind of pollution is in the ground there. That won’t help”

    Ford is already committed to cleaning the site up and it is in their best interest to clean it up so they can sell it for top dollar. They have been doing tests over the last few years to determine whats down there.

    But, after the plant is gone, and the site is cleaned up, yes, it might sit vacant for a while, and maybe a long time..

  • GregX

    Build a giant underground gun range. the Minneapolis and Saint Paul police forces need one and private citizens cold join as members to help fund it. Since its underground – no noise and no stray bullets.

  • GregX

    Posted by kimMN …………………………… Mo. ron. Ik.

  • Max

    Surly brewery

  • Chris

    Ahhh yes, I like Max’s plan. Surly Brewery for sure! Brilliant! How about a Vikings stadium (just kidding)

  • jacob

    Bring the production of the Chevrolet Colorado to the US and retrofit the Ford plant to produce them.

  • Ben

    How about building the Vikings stadium on the site of the Ford plant? It’s bound to be yet another superfund site, it’s centrally located and near the airport. Would prevent the site from being a wasteland for the next thirty years.

  • Jim

    Seems like a good place for a server farm: very cold weather to aid heat dispersion and a very convenient hydropower facility to power servers.

  • lucy

    There are a number of alternatives to cleaning a toxic environment. Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is an excellent and successful example.

    GaryF is you want to see ball fields you could be pro active and form a task force by getting a hold of your local community council.

  • kimMN

    I would like to see the old Ford site turned into a free haven for the OWS protester dirtbags ( not for the few misguided and uninformed college students protesting although they too are crying that they might have to pay back student loans because the public teachers have indoctrinated them to believe the mantra , ” If you don’t go to college, you won’t have a good job.”

    Seriously, I have seen that phrase actually written in student’s plans by teachers hundreds of times.

    Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, drivers, cement layers, heavy equipment operators do not have a college degree and without them, the country grinds to a halt.

    If they used the Ford site for another free OWS camp out where select radical groups hand out free food, free medical, free tents and free drugs while some sexually assault, defecate on streets, cause local business to shut down …well, then they wouldn’t free guilty for the capitalists that actually pay taxes to build and maintain the parks they camp in.

    BTW, MPR once asked if the media was biased…ever notice the absence of stories of their violence each day growing and the over3,000 arrests across the country or that the unions with the National Socialist Organization and American Communist Party all contribute? George Soros with his Media Matters and Move on.org and ACORN goups are not the only ones involved..so lets give them the toxic Ford plant grounds and solve the problem.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “….ever notice the absence of stories of their violence….”

    I went to the npr.org and typed “occupy violence” into the search box, and it came up with quite a few stories on that subject, kimMN. To say that it wasn’t covered by MPR/NPR is simply false. Did you not bother checking, or is the truth simply irrelevant to you?

  • kimMN

    Another idea for the Ford plant:

    Have all of those 10 or so liberal minded millionairs that say they want_ their own taxes raised, to forfeit their own money, say about 90% of their annual income from all sources, to build and fund a new government controlled medical school.

    In January of 2012, medicare reimbursement rates to docs will be cut. Having fewer physicians to see seniors means less care. Physicians are already cutting back on taking medicare recipients because the prior low rate of reimbursement does not allow them to fund their clinics so they have had to see more patients each day to make up for the Medicare patients.

    But isn’t there a great plan to fix this? Well, Obama signed the mandate Health Care Insurance bill which as we now can read in the passed bill, thanks to the Democratic congress in 2009, removes $500 billion from Medicare!

    Since when do Democrats steal from those who paid in to fund others on the mandated exchange program? They don’t. It is the Progressives that have co-opted our Democratic party and have done such carnage to the elderly and poor. Only such nonsense could spawn the remarks of Nancy Pelsoi when she said on camera about the Obama health insurance bill, ” WE have_ to get it passed so we can see what’s in it!” (Pelosi must think that most Americans are stupid sheep that can’t read or reason. Maybe she has early Alzheimer disease beginning?.)

    So to the Progressive radicals that honor Bill Ayers and the Annandale Foundation group, I say, instead of talking about wanting their own taxes raised, put up or shut up…go build a free tuition medical school and fund it fully without taking any government subsidies. They can buy the Ford lands and make it pretty.

    As Obama’s regulatory czar once wrote,

    ” when the masses are equal only those in control will have the money. We should be able to control the media to control the direction.”

    Wow, does USSR ring a bell?

  • kimMN

    To Steve, RE: bias by in media by non reporting fully or selective accounts.

    Did NPR cover any stories about the radical groups supporting OWC or discuss the filth and violence toward police at these sites? Are you aware that George Soros, the anti semitic yet Jewish born billionare, last year had donated over $1.2 million to NPR to specifically build a new Investigative reporting dept.? Did you know he has helped fund Adbusters.com he same radical group that started OWC, see their own web site and calls for the protest weeks before it began?

  • Steve the Cynic

    Part of being unbiased, kimMN, is not giving credence to conspiracy theories. If you were to look at the other side, public radio’s coverage of the Koch brothers’ activities, including their astroturfing of the Tea Party movement, has also been minimal to non-existent.