St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, accompanied by half a dozen administration members, will be taking a fact-finding trip through at least three European countries this March to come up with new, innovative ideas on how to develop the site where the former Ford Motor plant stood.
“I truly believe this site can be one of the greenest, cleanest and most well-connected sites anywhere in the country. A community where a diverse range of income, culture and interest are reflected in a range of housing, jobs and recreation,” Coleman told CBS news.
The Ford plant ceased operations in 2011 and demolition is still continuing, with many of the cars finding their way to budget car sales Las Vegas. The plant is located on a 125-acre site along the Mississippi River. Although the land is still owned by Ford Land, the real estate division of Ford Motor Company, it is expected to go on the market later this year.
“This is probably one of the most sought-after sites in the country,” Chris Tolbert, St. Paul city council member, said to the Pioneer Press. “It’s a remarkable piece of riverfront property that’s between two thriving downtowns and close to the airport. We expect a great development here.”
Tolbert plans to accompany the mayor on his trip. Other members of the administration that will accompany Coleman include a Ramsey County commissioner, the city planner, City Engineer John Maczko and representatives of foundations, utility companies and economic development agencies. These representatives will visit development sites in Denmark, Sweden and Germany. “These are sites that Planning and Economic Development have determined are really modern (uses) of former industrial sites,” said Tolbert. “They’ve done recent redevelopment, with modern train systems.”
The travel expenses for the city and county officials are being funded by foundation grants. Members of outside agencies that are accompanying the mayor are either sponsored by their employer or paying their own way. Tonya Tennessen, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said that the trip will be paid for using private funds and that no taxpayer dollars will be used.
“We are still in discussions with additional funders, but have commitments from the Knight Foundation, the St. Paul Foundation, the Bigelow Foundation, District Energy and the Port Authority,” she said.