Submitted by Sustain Saint Paul member Kevin Gallatin
Throughout 2020 significant construction progress was made at the Highland Bridge redevelopment on the former Ford site. What once seemed a project for the distant future is becoming a reality, with principal streets and parks scheduled to open to the public in late 2021.
Developer Ryan Companies already re-graded the entire site and buried miles of utilities including water lines, sewers, gas and electrical. The street grid and central stormwater feature are visible in aerial images and Bohland Avenue is fully curbed and paved where it intersects with Mississippi River Boulevard. Ryan Companies is responsible for rebuilding the intersections of Ford Parkway at Cretin and at Mount Curve next year and the designs are not yet public. Ryan Companies will also rebuild the intersection of Montreal and Cleveland with four-way stop signs.
The Parks Advisory Committee for Highland Bridge released park designs for public input and collected surveys through Dec. 8. The designs are very impressive with diverse features like a skate park, basketball and tennis courts, and playgrounds. Parks A & C in the northwest corner and southwest corner will be built in 2021. Parks B & D in the center and southeast corner will be built in 2022. A truly exception feature is a proposed tunnel to carry the daylighted Hidden Creek and a 12-foot wide biking and walking path under Mississippi River Boulevard to a renovated Hidden Falls Park.
Ryan Companies and its partners are focusing on developing buildings on the north part of the site along Ford Parkway. Over the summer the first major buildings were approved including a new Lunds & Byerlys grocery store at 800 Cretin Ave S. The $18.5 million building will also hold 230 apartments. The building was granted a variance for reduced open space that is being challenged in a lawsuit by the anti-development group Neighbors for a Livable Saint Paul. The lawsuit is not expected to affect construction of the building, but could result in different rules for how to count privately accessible open space toward the building’s open space requirement.
Sustain Saint Paul strongly advocated for ample affordable housing in the plan and is glad to see a significant early investment in subsidized housing. A residential building of 60 units for seniors will be built on Cretin Avenue just south of the grocery store on the same block. On the northwest part of the site Project for Pride in Living is planning a 75-unit building designed for workforce housing, and Emma Norton Services will run a 60-unit building of transitional housing for women.
A multiblock 300-unit senior housing development including 4,000 square feet of retail is proposed for the north-central part of the site. It will be run by Presbyterian Homes and will require a couple of height variances, including one for height in the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area. There’s been a little bit of a stir about the skyway connecting their buildings over Mount Curve at 820 & 825 Mount Curve. The skyway is important to allow residents with lower mobility to access shared dining and medical facilities. For the more fortunate, Pulte Homes will develop 320 row homes for purchase mostly at market rate starting in the $300,000 range. The floor plans for these buildings are online and appear to be garnering a great deal of interest. When Ryan Companies recently hosted a community forum on this once-controversial development, most of the questions from the community were some variation of “when can I move in?”