Neighbors Embrace New Oil Refinery for Ford Site

ford-aerial-aprilfools aerial rendering of improved Ford site

St. Paul, Minnesota — residents of the Highland Park neighborhood have been struggling for months against an outrageous proposal to redevelop the Ford Site with business, homes, and public green space. Today, Neighbors for a Livable St. Paul announced the results of their successful campaign to preserve neighborhood character. Instead of unsightly urban apartment homes, the industrial legacy of the site will be preserved, through the construction of a new oil refinery.

“We have long treasured the pristine open space afforded to us by the Ford plant,” neighborhood activist Gertrude Lowerthan wrote in a letter to the Highland Villager. “Other than the smoke stacks, the new Highland Park Refinery will afford neighbors uninterrupted views of the Mississippi.”

Site Plan Changes

The original site plan called for an unattractive mix of various forms of “pack and stack” housing, and an almost dizzying array of streets matching the surrounding grid. The new site plan is considered “context-sensitive” by the neighborhood, by preserving the existing vibrant mix of uses provided by the Ford plant.

The original designations proposed by planners would bring business, residents, and attractive public spaces to the neighborhood, ruining the surrounding character.

April Fool's Ford Site Plan

The revised site plan will preserve the neighborhood character of the historic Ford Plant.

“Now that’s a refined site plan,” grinned Scott Bensin, president of the Highland District Council. “Maybe in some places, they might like to have families, kids, dogs, and green space next door. But our residents are holding firm in Highland Park against this Minneapolification of St. Paul. Why have people living across the street when you can have something less impactful — like heavy industrial?”

Keeping the River Pristine

One particular sticking point for the previous plans for the Ford site was the changes to the feel for Mississippi River Blvd. Planners proposed buildings up to 48′ high front Mississippi River Blvd. Neighbors for a Livable St. Paul noted that this would ruin views from the parkway, spoiling the natural surrounding.

The new refinery will rebuild the historic Ford concrete wall, preserving the decades-old view from River Blvd for years to come.

Ford site view from Mississippi River Blv

The scenic views of the site from Mississippi River Blvd, pictured here from 2011, will be left unscathed by the new refinery. Image: Google Maps

Sean Hayford Oleary

About Sean Hayford Oleary

Sean Hayford Oleary is a web developer and planner. He serves on the Richfield City Council, and previously on the city's Planning and Transportation commissions. Articles are written from a personal perspective and not on behalf of Richfield or others. Sean has a masters in urban planning from the Humphrey School. Follow his love of streets, home improvement, and all things Richfield on Twitter @sdho.

18 thoughts on “Neighbors Embrace New Oil Refinery for Ford Site

  1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    Keeping the site industrial is historic preservation. 100′ industrial smoke stacks are far better uses along the river than 100′ stack and pack condos. Win-win for Highland Village.

  2. Paddy

    This is Xth in a series of posts on how the people of Highland Park and Mac Grove are “the worst people on earth” despite the fact that everyone wants to live there or build skyscrapers on every corner brought to by other wise known as the Institute of How to Suck at St Paul Politics

    1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson happily accepts April Fools submissions from everyone, we’d love to have yours as well!

      1. Paddy

        It did dawn on me later that it was probably an April Fools day joke but the snark and satire are about par for the course. Get what I deserve for taking the commentary seriously

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary Post author

          Enjoy the April Fools! And if you don’t want to wait till April 1, 2018 to respond, we’d love to have you write a serious response any time with your perspective of the site. I realize most writers are in favor of more density at the site, and it would be good for us all to understand the other side.

          I’ve got no dog in the fight, just saw some comic light in the idea of protesting 4-10 story apartment buildings as too impactful, given the previous use of the site… 🙂

    2. GlowBoy

      I don’t think the proposal calls for “skyscrapers” on every corner.

      Nor am I aware anyone has called the SFH owners of Highland Park or Mac Grove “the worst people on earth”, despite your use of quotes seemingly attributing this actual phrase to someone. On the other hand, “the fact that everyone wants to live there” wouldn’t necessarily disprove any such claims about the character of existing residents.

      Nor does favoring the Highland Park proposal constitute “sucking” at St. Paul politics.

  3. Duncan

    All the people in Highland sold their cars and start walking and use transit to get around.

  4. Andy E

    This is actually fantastic use of the land. A pipeline could be built along the river bank heading south, crossing under the river and Fort Snelling, for direct access to the airport. Quick, effective way to deliver jet fuel.

    Additionally, pipelines could be built linking this refinery to both the Bakken field as well as existing pipelines, allowing for jobs for years to come.

    Bravo! 😛

    1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

      Hydropowered oil refining! Clean jet fuel! We’ll be on the forefront of green airplanes.

    1. Johnh

      Interesting…. a black hole exists from Minneapolis to Saint Paul downtowns along the Mississippi river corridor for some non-paved MTB trails. St. Paul side downstream of Fort Snelling would seem to have the greatest potential. Or around the Highland/Snelling area just north of 7th street. Of course that might compete with the existing St. Paul character……

      I wish there were more off-road options in the core beyond Theo to access the trails on bike rather than shuttling.

  5. Geno

    100 foot Oil refinery smoke stacks vs 110 ft tall commercial /Condo units- its about the same in my view. Both based on $$$$$ over liveability. I’m actually surprised this novel idea wasn’t proposed by the city as as a “gutsy, new and progressive” way to increase jobs, increase revenue and increase tax base for St Paul… it would be the same attitude of current government officials– like the mayor who is quoted as saying: “were going to have to take a risk” …” because there’s only one way to realize the full potential of that site, and that is to do what’s different and bold and not seen in this region.”. Ie., making our current Village the guinea pig for “progress” at the expense if the neighborhood.

    1. Reilly

      If you want nothing but single-family homes in your immediate surroundings, Mendota Heights beckons. So do Maplewood, Oakdale, and Woodbury. St. Paul was designed as a city and should continue to develop as one.

  6. Julieann

    Mountain Bike Park! Lets get a march going down Ford Parkway in support of this idea! Better yet, a ride! My dad worked at the Ford plant for 30 plus years, he would have have been on board if he were still around.
    Somehow, I don’t see developers finding this idea as a feasible one though. There is huge value in green space, but not much money to be made.

  7. Charles Hathaway

    Nice April Fools piece by Sean H. O’Leary! And a good reminder that certain things don’t belong in Highland Park. Refineries are useful and have their place, but as Sean is pointing out, it’s easy to see that it’d be entirely wrong to put one in the middle of a well-established, pleasant, peaceful, and cherished neighborhood. Similarly, it’d be wrong to jam a high-density cluster of tall apartment buildings into Highland Park.

    Plans for the Ford site should consider what’s already great about the Highland neighborhood and community, and enhance it – make it even better. The site begs for large recreational fields, an expanded connection with the Hidden Falls park area, civic gathering centers, and a variety of residential and commercial uses – but with much lower density than has been proposed. adherents should take heart in knowing that there will be (and already are) many places elsewhere for those who prefer to live in high-density urban clusters.

    1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

      The established historically industrial Ford site is adjacent to far more apartments and towers than low density single family homes by my look. The character of the Ford site is clear to me. There is an abundance of green space around Highland in the form of seasonal ball fields and all season Grand Rounds parkland. Sprawling low density into it excessively IS a character change.

      Few remember when Ford was in top production here the congestion was more what the new residents who will fill the non-April Fools proposal will add. Everyone has gotten used to what it is now as if it was never worse. But because the universities north of the site have grown in traffic, St. Paul must suffocate development of Ford just in case more people at the Ford site make the university area traffic worse a single iota. I doubt people will notice there as most Ford site future residents will be driving across the Ford bridge to 55 to Minneapolis jobs or driving MN 5 to the 494 strip jobs.

      Bring people to live next to Highland Village shopping district who don’t need to drive to shop there is a win.

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