Where's the Open Space?

Where and what is "open space?"

Construction has begun at the site. The first requests for variances from the original agreement are in, and not surprisingly Ryan is urging the City to give them permission to go HIGHER, and put in more building while removing open space. 

The variances for 2170 Ford Pkwy. and 830 Cretin are linked. Note that 830 Cretin, the smaller of the two asks for a variance of the Open Space requirement of 9% (25% required, 16% actually provided) while 2170, the larger building, which takes up more of its llot (70%) requests no reduction in its requirement for free space.


Look at the plans for both buildings. Can you find open space equaling 25% of the building's footprint (the City's zoning requirement)? Does it matter? Press here.           

St Paul Municipal zoning code, ford site

Missing middle examples

South False Creek, Vancouver CA

Highland neighbors group pleads with mayor and Saint Paul City Council to reconsider density at Ford site


Citing societal shift and a growing body of knowledge about
Covid-19, the site’s neighbors are calling for a Ford plan redesign

St. Paul, Minn. –  With the City of Saint Paul and Ryan Companies poised for a groundbreaking ceremony at the Ford site, Neighbors for a Livable Saint Paul (NLSP) is urging the city to put down the shovels and reconsider.

In an open letter to the city’s mayor and city council, NLSP argues that the pandemic, civic unrest, and calls for re-imagining social structures demand a different approach at the site.

The pandemic is forcing cities everywhere to re-think their policies of forcing people into hyper-dense apartment clusters, notes the letter. It points out that the city’s Ford plan, developed five years ago, is predicated on perpetuation of the status quo and unjust socio-economic systems that cry out for reform.

“Things have changed,” the letter observes, and as a result the Ford Plan is outdated and unsuited to today’s realities.

If you'd like to listen to a great discussion about how to make Cities Healthy again, give a listen to the NPR blog, subtitled Cities that Heal. Click here (42 mins.)

Dear Mayor Carter and Members of the City Council

(Mailed 7/13/2020)


Fifteen years ago, when Ford had decided to abandon its St. Paul assembly plant, people asked: What would happen next at the site? Covering roughly 50 city blocks of prime real estate, situated on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, convenient to the downtown areas and the airport, and flanked by desirable neighborhoods, its fate was clearly consequential.


How the site would evolve was a matter of much discussion. Many ideas were surfaced and quickly abandoned: a park or natural area, a university or corporate campus, a center for light or heavy industry, a golf course, a medical center. The mayor opened discussions with Ford. The city’s planning department became involved, and a community-based Task Force was formed to help guide the redevelopment of the site. Neighbors expressed a preference for redevelopment that would complement and enhance the surrounding neighborhoods.


The City, however, had its own ideas. The City’s concept was that the site should become an ultra-dense collection of high-rise apartment buildings with space for retail businesses, but with limited park and recreation space, and without public facilities such as schools, recreation centers, or libraries. Everything would be efficient. There would be apartments, not homes, so each person’s real estate footprint would be small. Heating, cooling, and electricity usage would be minimized. Tenants would mostly be without cars, so they would rely on more efficient public transportation. A thriving middle class was apparently not part of the vision, but the City would provide some adequate housing for 760 families in difficult circumstances.


The City’s vision worked well for the construction industry, assuring that there would be construction jobs for many years at the site. And developers, once the apartments were built and tenants found, would profit by selling the buildings to wealthy out-of-state or foreign investors. It’s true that tenants’ rent checks — money that might otherwise be invested in the community — would be cashed in Boston or New York or Beijing, but with the high density would come high property tax revenues. Or such was the hope. On top of the millions the city had spent on planning, the City was willing to pay out hundreds of millions in tax-increment financing (TIF) subsidies for the project, gambling that property values would keep going up.


But things have changed.

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What's Coming?

Actually, any number of things could alter the course of the design of the Ford site. Market forces, environmental issues, political or any number of other issues might lead Ryan to revise design in process.

Here are a number of links to material which we all might do well to consider.

Market value apartments are going to be built and owned by Weidner Apartment Homes, who's St. Paul track record is the Lofts, downtown.  Go to their site and wander around. Question; how distinctive are these units? Is this an extension of the Davern riverfront complex? Is this 'world class?' You decide.

Project for Pride in Living will be responsible for the affordable housing. Here is a link to their website and properties. Same questions.


For a contrast, please consider some mid-density developments; aka 'the missing middle.'  click for more.



Woonerf, Leiden, Netherlands

Milwaukee Ave., Mpls. MN

Leavenworth, WA

Zoning for the Missing Middle:

Video: Form-based Codes