On Tuesday, the 122-acre site of the former Ford plant in St. Paul’s Highland Park got a new name: Highland Bridge.
In a virtual groundbreaking posted on Ryan Cos.’ website, the developer also announced two more development partners — PulteGroup will develop rowhomes expected to be built along the edge of a new stream-like water feature, and Presbyterian Homes will be the owner and operator of the project’s senior housing.
The name Highland Bridge is intended to signify the connection of what is to be a modern urban village with the established Highland Park neighborhood surrounding it, Ryan officials said.
“In creating the new vision for the former Ford Site, we paid considerable attention to the core tenets of the master plan, significant input from the community as well as the Highland District Council, City leaders, and of course the legacy that Ford created. We wanted to respect the rich history of the site and honor the heart and soul of St. Paul,” Tony Barranco, senior vice president for Ryan, said in a statement.
Mike Ryan, north region president of the company, said: “We’ve paid particular attention to what makes Highland Park special and our goal is to uphold those unique qualities, to expand upon them, and to create a place where people thrive for generations.”
Not everyone in the neighborhood is enamored. On Monday, Neighbors for a Livable Saint Paul, a group that had opposed the city’s master plan for the site, sent a letter asking the St. Paul City Council and Mayor Melvin Carter to scale back their vision of a housing-dense urban village. While the city’s goals for increased taxes and boosting the housing stock are worthy, they said, Ryan’s plans put too many people onto a too small site.
“The Ford Site redevelopment, albeit unintentionally, seems predicated on an assumption of a dystopian future without a middle class. Within this vision, a large group of impoverished citizens will be squeezed into a constrained living situation, with the profits and benefits flowing up and out,” the letter stated. “Absent is an assumption of a thriving middle class, or a central focus on providing conditions for a healthy and fulfilling existence.”
Expected to be among the development’s most popular features are rowhomes bordering a stormwater collection system designed to resemble a stream. Ryan announced that Pulte plans to build about 320 rowhomes, ranging from 1,900 to 3,000 square feet. Prices will start at well over $300,000. Habitat for Humanity has agreed to build six rowhomes. Construction of the homes is expected to start this winter, with the first units available for closing in winter 2021-22.
The planned senior-living community will offer independent living, assisted living and memory-care apartment options.
Ryan officials said the senior-living community will bring more than 100 full-time jobs.
“We are pleased to be able to continue to serve Highland Park, and the greater Twin Cities, by delivering a senior-living community that will allow residents to age in place and live well while being woven into the fabric of a uniquely walkable and highly programmed master-planned, mixed-use community,” said Jon Fletcher, vice president of Senior Housing Partners, the project development arm of Presbyterian Homes.
As part of the kickoff of the new Highland Bridge community, Ryan Cos. gave Carter a $5,000 donation to the St. Paul Bridge Fund, a program set up to provide financial relief to families and small businesses during the pandemic.
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.
In November, Carter announced a final development deal that provides $53 million in public financing for infrastructure. Ryan is expected to request more than $100 million more in the years to come to develop the affordable housing component.
Ryan previously announced several partnerships, including one with Weidner Apartment Homes to develop market-rate housing on more than 16 acres of the site. Commonbond Communities and Project for Pride in Living Inc. have been named as partners to help create the affordable housing element.
The Minneapolis-based master developer is also working with Xcel Energy to use 100% renewable energy to power the development, generated by the nearby hydroelectric plant that once powered the auto factory and what is expected to be the Twin Cities’ largest solar array.
Highland’s ‘Bridge’ to the future
• Ryan bought site from Ford in December 2019 for $61 million.
• Fully developed, officials say site’s value will be $1 billion.
• The site could be home to 8,500 new Highland residents.
• The project is expected to generate 14,500 construction jobs and more than 1,000 full-time jobs.
• Plans call for 20% of homes to be affordable.