Pat Harris will not proceed with development of the Ford site until community issues are resolved.
Mayoral candidate Pat Harris announced that as Mayor he will delay further City action on the Ford plant site until his administration has conducted a new series of community conversations and resolved key outstanding issues related to the site.
“The City’s move to rezone the site was premature both because too much is unknown and because it gave Ford and future real estate developers too much leverage,” Harris said. “I will not let future generations of Saint Paulites be boxed in by a plan that may not respond to real markets and community needs.”
In calling for a delay, he noted several important issues that need to be resolved:
- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has not yet granted a certificate of completion for the site. Additional restrictions or conditions could alter development options on the site.
- The acquisition of 13 acres from CP Rail remains uncertain. This could significantly alter development options on the site.
- There are no guaranties for increased transit service to the site and there has been no comprehensive assessment of traffic impacts nor is there a plan for dealing with traffic increases.
- There is no plan for replacing and expanding recreational opportunities on the site.
“There’s not a single person I have talked to who disputes that the Ford plant site represents a remarkable opportunity for the entire City of St. Paul,” said Harris. “What’s in question is whether the next Mayor brings the community together by listening to those who are concerned with the zoning plan or whether the next Mayor ignores those voices.”
Harris said that his administration will follow four key principles on the Ford Site:
First, future development on the site must not overwhelm community streets. “I am worried that the development outlined in the zoning plan would overwhelm our streets without a viable plan to move 7,000 new residents each day,” said Harris. “I pledge that my public works department will offer a transparent and detailed view of the traffic impacts of various development options. We will not move ahead with development until we reach community agreement on the right plan for traffic and a guarantee for transit access.”
Second, development will be driven by the needs of the community rather than by the current zoning plan. “I am troubled that the City’s plan relies too heavily on high density housing,” said Harris. “The plan does not have the right mix of senior and affordable housing that Saint Paul needs. Further, this site will take at least a decade to develop and no one knows what the next ten years will hold in the real estate market. As Mayor, I will be flexible and will not be boxed in by the current zoning plan.”
Third, the costs of cleaning and redeveloping the site will not be the burden of taxpayers and will not limit economic development in other parts of Saint Paul. “This is not a typical industrial site,” said Harris. “It lies at the heart of one of the City’s most stable neighborhoods. As Mayor, I will work to integrate this site to tap into that surrounding value. I will not steer tax dollars to Ford or to real estate developers. I will also make sure we do not take away from economic development initiatives in other areas of the City.”
Fourth, the site must expand green space, including full replacement of the ball fields on the site for both boys and girls as well as new opportunities for other recreational activities and open space. “This is not even a debatable point with me,” insisted Harris. “Ford Motor Company and the City of St. Paul will identify the resources and replace, in their entirety, every single acre of lost recreational space being eliminated under this zoning plan. I will call Ford on my first day in office to insist that they maintain their longstanding commitment to our youth.”
Harris reiterated that it is not the right time to pass the zoning plan for the site. “Zoning is our ‘Ace card’ in negotiating, and I feel like we played this card before the game even started. However, we still have some cards in our hand, and as Mayor, I will play them to make sure we get balanced development on the site that makes Saint Paul stronger.”