Ford Site Big Reveal

Last updated on

Ryan Companies finally dropped their plans for the Ford Site on Oct. 10.

While we’re still waiting for some details, the plan doesn’t stray too far from the original Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan passed by the Saint Paul City Council overall but there are definitely some additions and tweaks that will need to be reviewed.

Ryan Companies’s overview slide from the Oct 10, 2018 presentation


At  95 percent of the maximum units allowed by the city’s zoning plan, the Ryan Companies’s plan will consist of 3,800 individual housing units. The biggest chunk of these units will come in the form of “multi-family units ” presumably in the 4-6 story apartment buildings on the northeastern side of the site that was originally zoned for up to 8-10 stories. Although the height has been reduced in this section, the number of units has not dramatically shifted and the overall number of units is definitely still on the higher end of the 2,400-4,000 unit range in the city’s plan.

Affordability and Senior Housing

Of the 3,800 units Ryan is committing to 750 as dedicated “affordable units” –  just at the 20 percent goal as established by the City Council (10 percent at 30 percent Area Mean Income, 5 percent at 50 percent AMI, and 5 percent at 60 percent AMI).

Ryan did not include details as to the types of housing that will be available as affordable or the locations but they did state repeatedly that affordable housing will be interspersed through the site.

Other housing has been described as market rate rental and owned properties and specifically 400 “senior rental units” so we anticipate a good mix of owned and rented properties.

The Ford Site proposal by Ryan Companies

Housing Variety

According to Ryan, the site will be a mix of multi-unit apartment and condo buildings with single unit row homes and townhouses as well. Most of the site adheres to the present zoning as laid out by the City Council with the slight modification in F4 mentioned above and another large exception – 35 single family housing units along the river in the F1 River Residential area.

Single family housing has not been zoned within the Ford Site plan adopted by the City Council.This will require a revision of the plan by the Council in order for Ryan to build them along the real estate of the coveted Mississippi River Boulevard. This is definitely an aspect of the plan that will require more attention and detail.

Ryan’s proposed retail zone at the north end of the site

Retail and Industry

At only 50 percent of the maximum retail allowed of the City’s zoning plan, Ryan looks to build out most of its retail space towards the north end of the site—trickling into the middle around the water feature. Most of the site has been zoned as mixed use and it’s curious that more “nodes” akin to those in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan are not being created. It could also mean that there will be less amenities available “onsite” to residents. It will be interesting to see how this affects the potential tax revenue of the site.

In their press release Ryan states “overall, the project is estimated to bring over $1B of economic development to the area. Specifically, the project will create over 14,000 construction jobs over the course of the redevelopment and approximately 1,300 permanent jobs in a variety of industries including: retail, healthcare, office, senior living, housing, fitness and building operations.”

Most of the industry on the site will take place at the southeastern gateway to the site as most of the northwestern planned area for industry will be converted to parkland in Ryan’s plan.

Parks, Green Space and Recreation

Perhaps the one of the most impressive features and what will surely be a draw to the site by residents and visitors alike will be the storm water feature in the center of the site. Ryan is clearly excited about this feature and having looked at some of the other developments they’ve been involved with it should really make the site stand out. Few details were given regarding the sustainability features of the system so we’re again looking forward to discussing the actual system and how it will make the site more environmentally sustainable and have positive impact on the land and parks around it.

Speaking of parks, including the water feature the site plan lists 50 acres of “public and open space”. Besides the central water feature, Ryan is including public space in the central corridor that will potentially have features such as an outdoor amphitheater and be looped by a 2 mile bike and pedestrian trail.

There are several parks areas planned throughout the site – some of which will occupy previously slated industrial and commercial zoned areas. We assume that this will also require a change in the zoning. One particular area to note is the eastern gateway which still includes two of the current ball fields. There were no details given about the fields such as ownership, maintenance, or administration over these fields as of the plan unveiling.


While Sustain Ward 3 wishes the site overall was going to be home to more people in general –  3,800 units is still a significant number of new places for people to live. The city can certainly support more market-rate owned and rented units but we are encouraged to see and hear Ryan’s continued commitment to the City’s affordability goals for the site.

The recreational features of the site are certainly strong at first glance. Ryan seems committed to providing residents of the site and the surrounding community with places to play and roam. What remains to be seen is the functionality of and the administration of these features including their impact on sustainability and city resources. It also seems that the green space is taking priority over commercial, retail and industrial opportunity on the site.

There is a lot in the this plan that – at this stage – remains to be seen. Sustain Ward 3 is excited to engage with Ryan and the City of Saint Paul to start understanding the plan in more detail. Once we have, we will continue to update and evaluate this plan.