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Official word on Ford plant closing launches 'next steps' process for St. Paul

The next step in the Ford Plant saga comes next month when Ford officials will hold a public meeting to outline the end game.
The next step in the Ford Plant saga comes next month when Ford officials will hold a public meeting to outline the end game.

Although it was inevitable, Monday's announcement that the St. Paul Ford Motor Plant will close for good Dec. 19 brought a strong dose of finality to plant employees, city officials and neighbors in Highland Park who've spent the past five years trying to keep the plant alive, or at least delay its closing.

"Even though we've known it was coming, finally getting that date makes it real," said Merritt Clapp-Smith, a senior planner at the city of St. Paul. "It's an emotional piece of news."

In addition to the work done to try to persuade Ford to keep the plant up and running, officials kept busy on Plan B and have invested tons of time preparing for the closing and ultimate reuse of the site.

The next step in the Ford Plant saga comes next month when Ford officials will hold a public meeting to outline the end game. They'll talk about equipment removal and demolition of the buildings as the begin the long process to sell the 125-acre site.

The meeting, billed as "Next Steps After Ford Plant Closure," is Nov. 9 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the UAW-Ford-MnSCU Training Center Auditorium,  at Ford Parkway and Mount Curve Blvd. in St. Paul.

Ford officials will discuss logistics of the shutdown and site clean up, said Janelle Tummel of the city's Planning and Economic Development Department.

"The meeting is open to everyone and is geared toward the community, letting people know what to expect next, with specifics on timing," she said. "People will want to know about the noise level during demolition, how loud and dusty it's going to be, and how these things will affect the community."

On the agenda: 

Key steps and activities after plant closure, including continued environmental assessment, decommissioning of the plant, building removal, marketing the site, and future planning work.

The fate of the plant site has long been a major issue for city and neighborhood officials; a task force has been meeting to develop guidelines for redevelopment of the property. There are scenarios for redevelopment, and sustainability goals for the site have been developed.

A city website works to put a positive spin on the closing:

While the closure of the plant is a significant loss for the community, the city and the region, it provides an unprecedented redevelopment opportunity in the center of the Twin Cities region, in one of the most beautiful, stable and economically strong neighborhoods of Saint Paul.

And Mayor Chris Coleman's statement about the closing date said:

"My thoughts are with Ford employees and their families today. Since the first Model T rolled off the line 86 years ago, Ford has impacted the history, character and livelihood of Saint Paul. We are thankful for Ford’s contributions to the city and the community involvement of its employees.

"While we are sad to see their doors close, we are optimistic about the opportunity to use this land to create new businesses and jobs. Through our partnership with Ford and a redevelopment framework in place, we will create new uses for this site that are of the greatest benefit to the region."

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Comments (8)

The future of the Ford site was one of the main topics at a recent 3rd Ward candidate forum in St. Paul. 3 of the 4 candidates had distinctly different ideas about what should take its place and, in one case, an idea for replacing St. Paul's current zoning laws with a plan modeled after that used in Houston, TX. The fourth offered no specific vision for the property or anything else, for that matter, focusing almost exclusively on process.

As I recall, John Mannillo favors mixed use development; Eve Stein prefers the property be used for residential and recreational purposes; Tyler Slinger advocated for the change in zoning laws; and Chris Tolbert was focused on process.

Isn't that site still controlled by Ford and possibly polluted? It was exciting when they talked about redevelopment during the housing boom, I think the city would have gotten a lot more property tax off it. But it will unfortunately be a slog now. Great location though.

It is a great tragedy that the Twin Cities Ford Assembly plant will close for good on December 22. I have been in the plant many times and I have many friends there. The plant's closing is at least partially a result of bureaucratic intransigence and industrial naivete on the part of public officials. That plant, which always ranked near the top of ALL North American plants in quality and productivity did NOT have to close. What it needed was integrated metal stamping which ALL modern plants have. The State and local community could have helped facilitate the provision of this special attribute, but they were either too lazy or too unimaginative to pursue the matter.

Minnesota workers have a right to expect MORE from their elected officials and economic development personnel.

Frederick M. Zimmerman, PhD

Come on people, the answer is obvious. This is the logical choice for the new Vikings Stadium site. It's a perfect addition to the list of controversial and/or polluted possibilities, and it's riverfront property too. Let's add to the complexity of the stadium debate and bring the Vikings to St. Paul.

When Ford announced they were closing the plant, the reaction from the Saint Paul city council was to envision condos and candle shops in that space.

At the same time, Mercedes was building a plant in Alabama, Mitsubishi was expanding their production facilities in Illinois, and Honda was expanding in Ohio. Both foreign and domestic auto manufacturing plants were looking for prime property to build or expand. Our city leaders did nothing at all to attract that business.

It's outrageous what politicians from the supposedly working-man's party did when faced with losing 1,500 long-term manufacturing jobs. Instead of their visions of property tax-paying yuppies sipping latte from their condo balconies, they've got nothing to show for it and no clue where those 1,500 replacement jobs will come from.

But hey, the local thuggery will have the convenience of light rail in 2-3 years.

It is Ford's plant and it was and is Ford's decision to close or continue to operate. Mayoral overtures, beginning with Norm Coleman, were greeted by Ford with polite smiles and "Thanks but no thanks." The bottom line is that in Ford's eyes it made financial sense to close the plant rather than modernize. I recall no request on Ford's part for local or state government subsidies or incentives to keep the plant open.

Local government has had many failures over the years, but this isn't one of them. What the City decides to do with respect to re-zoning the property and how it seeks to direct redevelopment will be its responsibilty, as it will be Ford's responsibility to determine who to sell it to, for what purposes and how much environmental cleanup it's willing to undertake in order to do so.

Cleanup is a complicated issue. The extent of the effort required is a function of the nature of the contaminants, the property location, water tables, and the intended use of the property, among other things. So, the intended use directly affects both the cost of the cleanup and the sales price.

Industrial development of some type would be great for the local economy, but likely will be successfully resisted by Highland Park residents even if an industrial buyer were to step forward. It strikes me as unlikely that Ford would be willing to sell the property for development into single family homes, in light of the fact that this typically requires the most extensive cleanup. If I'm right, then the most likely scenario is mixed use development that might include everything from small, light industrial to, retail, office and multi-family residences. Will it replace the jobs and taxes lost by the plant closing? Time will tell, though I'm not optimistic.

a few thoughts on the closure of the TCAP (twin city assembly plant) it was with anger and sadness when I heard the plant was slated to be closed. my brothers and sisters of the united auto workers had dedicated their lives to making quality job one. the ford corp. had other ideas and when they poured billions into the upgrade of the plant in detroit and the focus of ranger trucks in thailand- sent a signal of their intentions. they have no allegiance to the u.s.
anyways- but I believe development of the site will be an extremely long process for the following reasons:
it will be a brown field extradonaire
(my uncle worked in the glassworks remembers using mercury as a rolling agent on the silica- and dumping it in barrels)
unless Ford is given a free and clear pass on liability for pollution- they will just pay the property taxes and sit on it.
selling the hydro plant was a mistake and the city or state should have stepped forcefully to retain a public asset.
So-I stand with the workers and will do my part to help them find work and solidarity.

Let's fill the site with big box stores with a few of Dennis' candle shops mixed in for balance.
Neighborhood resident.