See more of the story

St. Paul will direct property taxes from the site of the former Ford plant toward building streets, parks and utilities on the 122-acre parcel.

The City Council on Wednesday evening approved $53 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) for the site. That money, part of a $275 million TIF package that will likely also finance future affordable housing, will set the stage for mixed-use development on the now-empty land.

"It is entirely a blank slate," said Kristin Guild, interim director of Planning and Economic Development, in a presentation to council members. "There aren't roads, there aren't sewers, there aren't utilities."

A decade of planning has gone into reimagining the former automotive plant site in the Highland Park neighborhood. The vision for the site includes parks and trails, retail, office space and a variety of housing.

"When Ford Motor Company opened a sprawling auto manufacturing plant on the banks of the Mississippi, they laid the foundation for nearly a century of opportunity and growth in our city," Council Member and Housing and Redevelopment Authority Chairman Chris Tolbert said in a statement. "I believe that today we are embarking on another once in a century opportunity that will reap benefits for generations to come."

The total infrastructure cost for the site is estimated at more than $93 million. Private sources, including developer Ryan Cos., will provide nearly $33 million; the rest will come from TIF, capital improvement bonds and municipal state aid.

City Council President Amy Brendmoen said she would like to see more assistance from the state.

"There's clearly a regional benefit," she said. "I would really like to see our Legislature and governor step up and participate in this to help reduce the need for so much TIF to finance the project."

The city has applied for a state grant to help build a stormwater management system on the site, which would lower the TIF financing needed for infrastructure by up to $7 million, interim Finance Director John McCarthy told council members Wednesday.

Once built out, the site is expected to be a model for sustainable development, Guild said. In addition to green stormwater infrastructure, all of the site's electricity will come from carbon-free renewable sources, including the largest urban solar array in the Twin Cities.

The site, currently valued at $40 million, is expected to be worth $1 billion by 2040.

Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509