Redevelopment deal reached for former St. Paul Ford plant

Published 5:42 am Thursday, November 14, 2019

ST. PAUL  — A redevelopment deal has been reached for the former Ford Motor Co. plant in St. Paul that would feature thousands of new homes powered by renewable energy, officials announced Tuesday.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and other officials praised the final development deal with Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. The agreement will allow Ryan to buy the 122-acre (49.373-hectare) vacant site in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood from Ford and move forward on the project to develop the site of a former Ford assembly plant that closed nearly eight years ago.

Ryan will ask St. Paul for $53 million in tax-increment financing to help build out infrastructure. That amount is part of more than $92 million in public and private funding to be spent on infrastructure. It’s a smaller amount than what Ryan previously proposed, but it’s possible the developer will ask for additional public funds.

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Officials said the project will feature Minnesota’s largest urban solar array and hundreds of units of affordable housing and could be worth $1 billion when fully developed. The deal requires St. Paul City Council approval, which officials hope will happen before the end of the year.

Ryan unveiled plans for a mixed-use development, featuring commercial and retail space and 3,800 units of housing on 40 new city blocks, with a mix of single-family homes, condos, row houses, apartment buildings and senior rentals. No building would be taller than six stories, and more than 50 acres would be set aside as public-access open space. About 1,000 permanent jobs are envisioned on-site, in addition to 14,500 construction jobs during development. Ryan also has promised to plant at least 1,000 trees and create a couple of parks within the development.

The project also would feature 265,000 square feet (24619.1 sq. meters) of office space and 150,000 square feet (13935.34 sq. meters) of retail space.

“This is just the beginning,” said Tony Barranco with Ryan. Barranco said the developer would like to start construction in the spring.

The deal calls for 20% of the housing to be income-restricted, with 760 units affordable to households within 30 to 60% of the area’s median income.

Developer Mike Ryan said construction will be lengthy. He expected it would be three years before the first residents move into the area, and five years before the infrastructure and public amenities were completely built out.

“This site has long represented to us and to many one of the greatest redevelopment (opportunities) … in the country,” Mike Ryan said.

The former assembly plant started production in 1925 and made a variety of vehicles and military equipment over the decades. The plant closed in December 2011, when the last Ford Ranger pickup truck, the factory’s only product, ceased U.S. production as part of corporate restructuring. The car maker chose Ryan as the site’s master developer in June 2018.

“It was not always a clear shot that we would end here on this stage,” Walz said during a media event inside a tent at the Ford site. “This is an incredible part of history that sits on this piece of land.”