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Friday, March 6, 2015

An Inside Look at World-Class Innovation: 2015 Ford Site Study Tour

By Mayor Chris Coleman


Almost one hundred years ago, Henry Ford stood on 130 acres overlooking the Mississippi River in Saint Paul and saw a world of potential. Today, we as a city stand in that same place, but with a much different vision. As Mayor and lifelong resident of Saint Paul, it is both my duty and my desire to engage our community and lay a strong foundation for this once-in-a-lifetime development opportunity for our region.

I am deeply grateful for the large number of Saint Paul residents, business owners, artists and activists who have come out in droves to each community meeting, providing input and helping to shape our vision for the Ford site thus far. In just the past year, we have honed in on key principles and areas of focus for that vision: housing variety, jobs and tax base, energy and sustainability, varied transportation options, parks and amenities, and mixed uses and activities. 

Next, we must engage in the hard work of ensuring that our aspirations around transportation, sustainability and quality of life can become market realities. To do so, a group of Saint Paul leaders and I are embarking on a trip to Berlin, Copenhagen, Malmo and Stockholm to look beyond the borders of Saint Paul and into cutting edge, urban developments across Europe – places that have figured out how to implement big ideas. 

                                                 Aerial View of Copenhagen


Business representatives from the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater MSP and the Saint Paul Port Authority will explore how job creation factored into successful mixed-use sites such as Adlershof Science and Technology Park, a 1,000 acre site that’s home to 450 companies and sustains 15,000 jobs. 

 Aldershof Science and Technology Park

Leaders from Xcel Energy and Saint Paul District Energy will speak with their counterparts about cutting-edge sustainability practices at places like Feldheim, a site that is completely self-sufficient when it comes to energy.

City and County leaders, along with representatives from Ford, will see what accessible green space, varied housing and public transportation can look like in Malmo, where no residence exists more than ¼ of a mile from a bus stop. And all along the way, members of our partner organizations such as the Saint Paul and McKnight Foundations will be inspired by how each site evokes culture and community. 

                                    The Bo01 City of Tomorrow in Malmo, Sweden


The importance of this trip cannot be overstated. As we get closer to the “For Sale” sign going up on the historic Ford site, one thing has become increasingly clear: just as it is necessary for us to learn from each other about what we aspire to as a community, it is equally necessary that we learn from those who have made their vision come to life – and build upon the work they’ve already done.  

As we move ever closer to placing this site on the market, we must continue to engage locally. I ask that each and every one of you whose lives are intertwined with the future of Saint Paul get involved. Follow the hashtag #FordSiteFuture on social media to get updates from our trip. Attend one of the monthly community meetings we have planned through the next six months, sign up for the newsletter and engage in content and updates on the project website, www.stpaul.gov/fordsite. Make your voice heard as we go forth with one of the most exciting, impactful opportunities in Saint Paul. 

If done right, what was once home to Ford Motor Company can become one of the most sustainable, accessible communities in the world – a place where people, businesses and organizations across the globe will want to call home.