In September 2017, the Saint Paul Planning Commission and the Saint Paul City Council
adopted a bold plan: the Ford Site Master Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan. In this
landmark document, the city laid out a widely-praised vision for an environmentally and
economically sustainable development that would provide public amenities, employment
opportunities, and much-needed affordable housing.
The resolution before the council and the amendments in Ord 19-19, jeopardize this vision. Sustain Ward 3 believe that there are reasonable
modifications that can be made to ensure that the Ford Site lives up to the city’s commitment to
planning for a 21st century community.
This document outlines three (3) compromises, supported by the Sustain Ward 3 Board, that will
improve upon the proposed Ryan Companies amendments and help deliver a more equitable
outcome. These suggestion are:
1. Land Use: Modifications on to Western portion of the site
2. Commercial Parking: Modifications to commercial parking requirements and the creation of
a parking improvement district
3. Access: Modifications to access to ensure safer access on the eastern portion of the site
1. Land Use
Modify and supplement the F1, F2, and F3 zoning inan equitable manner
The Ford Site zoning modifications proposed by Ryan Companies will affect the vision of the Ford Site, specifically the city’s equity goals. These modifications include;
● Modifying the F1 zoning to allow Single Family Housing
● Rezoning Lot 11 from F2 to F1
● Modifying F3 minimum height requirements
● Reducing the minimum amount of commercial use in F3 and F4 to a 0% requirement
and F5 to a 0% requirement for employment opportunities
While we still favor the existing plan’s exclusion of single family homes for sustainability
reasons, we understand that there has been a request for them to be built as a financial
In addition to currently zoned F1 lots along the river, Ryan has identified Lot 11as a target area
for single family homes and has requested that it be downzoned to F1. We have no doubt that
these will be expensive homes. We feel that multi-family housing is more appropriate for this
area. We offer a counter-proposal below.
While reducing the height minimums in F3 does not exclude the possibility of multi-family
housing with commercial and employment opportunities, it does not ensure that those
opportunities for residents will exist on the western portion of the site. Coupled with the request
to reduce overall commercial spaces on the site, Saint Paul stands to lose considerable
employment opportunities, tax revenue, and the mixed-use walkable node design intended by
the existing plan and the city’s goals outlined in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
The Ford Site should be accessible to all, and we need to avoid creating a gated community
within the city.
The addition of single family homes, the downzoning of F2 lots to F1, and the reduction in height
minimums are a springboard for inequity on the western portion of the Ford Site and we run the
risk of isolating the rest of the site not only from the amenities of the Mississippi but also gating
off an entire section of the site into luxury single family homes and single family unit buildings.
Our Alternate Proposal to Mitigate Inequity on the Western
Sections of the Ford Site
Sustain Ward 3 is requesting the City Council to:
● Allow the F1 SFH and F3 height reduction with a conditional use permit (see below)
● Modify the minimum commercial requirements in F3 and F4 to 5%
● Modify the minimum employment opportunity requirements in F5 to 5%
● Specify additional pedestrian and cycling pathways through the western portion of the
site allowing access to the river and MRB
As a condition of allowing single family homes in F1 and reducing heights in F3, F2 and F3
zoning in lots 12,13,18, 23, 29, 30, and 35 should contain an equal, or near equal, number of
affordable housing units. For instance, if 33 single family homes are built along the river in lots
17, 22, 28, 34, and 38, then a minimum corresponding 33 units must be available as affordable
housing at 50 to 60% AMI in nearby lots 12,13,18, 23, 29, 30, and 35. These would not be
additional units but taken from the pool of 760 units proposed by Ryan to meet the affordability
goals of of the existing plan.
By ensuring that there is commercial mixed-use minimums and reserving units as affordable
housing, there will be a portion of the western side of the site that 1) will have amenities and
employment opportunity for residents, 2) create more walkable neighborhood nodes in keeping
with the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, and 3) ensure that the Site does not exclude affordable
housing from the western portion of the site.
See Map 1: Current Zoning and Block Map
2. Commercial Parking
Modifications to commercial parking requirements and the creation of a parking improvement district
Ryan is proposing to double the minimum number of parking spaces per square foot of retail
space. The existing Ford Site Plan and the 2040 Comprehensive Plan specify that Saint Paul
should be focusing on encouraging transit and alternate modes of transportation and
concentrate on developing transit-focused, walkable neighborhood nodes in order to reduce
reliance on car traffic.
Our Alternate Proposal to Encourage Transit Use, Provide Retail
and Residential Parking
The City of Saint Paul has concluded that encouraging single-occupancy car use is not a
sustainable transportation plan and our city should not be encouraging driving to the site by
building commercial parking.
As a compromise, we propose that the site temporarily increase parking minimums to one (1)
space per 300 sq.ft of retail space and include paid parking for commercial use and convert free
on-street parking to metered parking.
Metered parking can provide a flexible solution as dual purposed commercial and residential
parking through the use of permits or scheduled enforcement. Existing on-street parking and
surface lots in the Village could also be converted to paid parking in order to provide additional
parking. We propose the creation of a “parking improvement district” where the funds collected
could be re-invested in the neighborhood for streetscape improvements.
3. Eastern Access
Modifications to access to ensure safer access
The existing proposed street network for the Ford Site includes two (2) points of access on the
eastern side: Montreal Avenue and Saunders Avenue. Ryan is proposing to eliminate the
Saunders Ave connection. No additional access point has been proposed for car, pedestrian,
bicycling, transit or emergency vehicle access on the eastern side of the site.
Our Alternate Proposal to Make the Eastern Side of the Ford Site
Accessible For All
By reducing access to the site to the east, it creates an access issue for not only cars – but also
pedestrian, bike, and emergency vehicles. While the traffic studies indicate that Montreal may
be able to bear the additional car traffic, limiting eastern points of access impacts accessibility
for pedestrians, cyclists, and people with mobility issues. The higher concentration of car traffic
at the Montreal entrance will lead to unsafe conditions for other modes. The addition of a paved
trail through the Saunders connection which is wide enough to accommodate pedestrians,
cyclists and emergency vehicles would solve this issue and relieve the extra pressure of
additional car traffic on other modes.
We still have an opportunity to make the Ford Site an 21st Century Community and hold up to the ideals that the existing plan and Saint Paul 2040 Plan include. Sustain Ward 3 understands that compromise is a part of this procedure but the resolution and amendments to the existing plan as they stand are not equitable compromises. The above sections offer reasonable compromises while still adhering to the core values of the existing plan and the 2040 Comp Plan. Zoning codes and the grid map – as we have always said – are the first step to guaranteeing that the site will be designed as an equitable mixed-use community. By setting minimum standards and requirements Saint Paul can ensure that the future of the Ford Site aligns with its goals as a city to “strengthen neighborhoods; improve walkability; increase access to housing, jobs, schools, parks and services; promote equitable access to neighborhood nodes; help to reduce carbon emissions; and accommodate growth by leveraging transit investments.” (page 28 “Saint Paul For All – 2040 Comprehensive Plan” Plan Public Hearing Draft – November 2, 2018)
Rob lives with his wife Amanda in their small Highland Park home with their two dog-sized cats. He is an avid bicyclist and musician.