We Read Ford Site Comments So You Don’t Have To

When controversy happens….when tempers flare….we read the commentsso you don’t have to.

Kitten Reading Internet Comments

Emergency kitten

Perhaps you have heard of the Ford Site, in St. Paul? It is no longer being used to make trucks. It is one of the largest, best pieces of land to be developed in the city core right now on either side of the river. It is near the river and near excellent neighborhoods that have expensive housing and walkable grocery stores and stuff!

So, naturally, the city is trying to plan development. And that’s where all hell has broken loose between advocates of development, NIMBY long-time residents of the area, YIMBY long-time residents of the area, and even squirrels who live near the river!

There has been a lot of media coverage of the debates over the plan. We’re going to focus solely on those published recently that we found by searching “Ford Site” in Google News.

We decided to read the comments and rate each media outlet on a scale of 1-5 stars, where 1 means “reading these made us feel dumber,” and 5 means “we have hope for our civilization, even if the conditional use permit for the #carbucks on Marshall isn’t revoked.”

Star Tribune: Forty public meetings have not brought about agreement about master plan for St. Paul’s Ford site

29 comments, and we’re going to note that the headline itself is a bit of a snipe, given that even certain city council members have claimed the process has not been open enough.


  • “No matter what the City of St. Paul does with this Ford redevelopment, half of the people will not like it.  So they just need to do what they think is best.” Good luck with that in an election year with a mayoral race on the ballot!
  • User “leftwingnews” at once complains about his property tax ($4k on a 100 square foot home) and simultaneously complains that the city/county see dollar signs by adding density (in other words: tax base).
  • “Muti family housing is not the issue. The issue is the level of density.” Uh.
  • “The complaint about transparency is absurd.  This site has been discussed for re-development for 10+ years.  Why on earth would anyone be opposed to taking this site and bringing it up to 2020 standards?”

Score: 2?. This may seem high by recent standards, but it’s really two HP NIMBYs fighting everyone else, and there are only 29 comments.

Pioneer Press: With hundreds wanting to comment on Ford plant redevelopment, hearing will continue next week

The article itself contains several high-quality zingers from last week’s hearing. We could spend hours on those alone! But instead, we will look at the 40 comments.


  • “If the neighborhood activists and the affordable housing crew and the density lovers and the density haters all hate the plan a little bit, I think that means those in charge did a pretty good job splitting the baby and managing competing interests.” This… is not actually the worst observation! Density people want more height, more density, and often more affordable/lower income non-senior housing. Anti-density people want a linear park. Some people seem to hate the plan more than a little bit though!
  • A white guy claims everyone can bootstrap it and affordable/dense housing is just liberal subsidy. An actual decent discussion about societal benefits reaped in the process of overcoming economic challenge follows! OMG.
  • “The only thing that is missing is the unicorn park and the central square so the people have a place to do mandatory group exercise. Oh and I forgot about the may pole park so they can dance to the pagan gods in their one piece grey zipper suits during the solstice and other pagan rituals. One more thing, they will need a government subsidized broom factory so the little people can try to support themselves.”

    I like unicorns.

  • An argument about the site’s viability to be an auto plant again also ensues. “Bow to your lords, the urban planners! Coffee houses, craft kombucha breweries, and farm-to-table restaurants for all!” They all sound like nice destinations after the unicorn park!
  • Someone suggests building a casino there. Uh. Also, I’m sure the Highland Park NIMBYs would love that. What.

Score: Um. 1?? PiPress comments are invariably awful. There were okay observations and a shocking discourse on bootstraps that was not terrible. But there were unicorns and kombucha. So.

WCCO: St. Paul Group Aims to Stop Ford Site Development
This actually has 0 comments!

Star Tribune: St. Paul shrinks building heights in proposed Ford site development plan



  • “The utopians want to build Cabrini-Green. And we will all densely frolic merrily together, on bicycles! How quickly we forget the lessons of history.”

    I grew up near Chicago in the 1970s, and I am betting this person has never been near a Chicago project. I actually hired staff living in projects. I suspect this person has nary a clue WTF they are talking about.

  • Someone points out to an HP NIMBY that this is a separate neighborhood and the plan would make it such.
  • “St. Paul families want to live in houses if they can. Small families may start out here but no one will live in these permanently – until they become run down.”
  • “Build them TALLER by the river….those are the views people will pay a premium to have.”
  • A NIMBY accuses supporters of having no intent to live in or near the development. Another user: “We’ll be here long after the cries of “traffic!” “parking!” and “crime!” have faded into the recesses of history.” Another points out that if they built to the density of Orono, they could add 56 people.
  • “Nearby residents’ concerns are based on class. They assume that they have no responsibility to accommodate anyone that doesn’t live like them. That is not how cities operate. That is how gated communities work.” A debate on classism ensues.

Score: We give up. Also, it’s 5PM somewhere.

To be honest: Wednesday’s hearing was quite interesting. The Say Yes crowd did a great job of organizing themselves to be visually dominant, and had clear messaging. The Livable St. Paul crew were, frankly, somewhat outclassed. The continuation next Wednesday at 3:30 should be pretty amazing to observe.

We will hopefully be covering it on Twitter if you cannot attend, and/or monitoring accounts that are in attendance providing detail. Note that any re-tweets of these aren’t endorsement by Streets.MN of anything but the interestingness of the tweet and hearing!

And, no doubt, there will be more comments to read Thursday. We have a few days to recover before then.

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!

4 thoughts on “We Read Ford Site Comments So You Don’t Have To

  1. Daniel HartigDan

    This whole situation is so sad. Why is the city even getting involved in detailed planning/zoning and height restrictions?

    This is a greenfield development in the heart of a major, growing urban area, adjacent to a brand new transit investment (A-line). This opportunity comes along about never. The city can simply reap the benefits!

    Un-zone the whole parcel and auction it off to the highest bidder, and see what the market builds. Charge a heavy, flat tax on the land area. The only logical result will be mid to high-rise residential (maybe with some commercial mixed in); the land is far, far too valuable for any other use. In the long run, that will be what is best for the city’s financials. And, that also is best for the A-line, increasing its ridership.

    What an opportunity, I don’t understand how a city can collectively fail to take advantage. Who even cares about pissing off residents that want to live at suburban density? They can move to Eagan or Eden Prarie or wherever.

    1. Karen

      That is not politically viable – when the mild re-zoning is getting such back lash – and is it even remotely legal to charge a high land tax on one site but have regular property tax scheme for rest of city – I like land value taxes but can’t see it getting traction for whole city so unless city or port authority buys whole site, can’t do it.

      I also have a problem with unleashing a lot of private development within an already grown city with not guidance – todays developers are lemmings and can only get financed for certain things – I don’t trust this process to be a good incremental growth process.

      And I don’t think the city has failed – consider a corollary in Mpls – the area of Prospect Park north of University and east of the U of MN – a centralized, primo dead industrial spot right next to the U and Mpls let it sit more or less empty for decades hoping the industrial jobs would come back. Mpls city govt did nothing to encourage development to higher, denser issues and have often fought against dense mixed use planned there. It took some very enterprising citizen activists to get a vision going for that area, work very hard to get better more innovative developers interested, get grants for said visions to be put on paper, get city to reconsider and allow mixed zoning under an “innovation district” concept.

      At least in St. Paul the city govt has been working to make something good happen for the city and getting feedback for over a decade from the citizens about various plans and has done a pretty darn good job from my perspective compromising while finding ways to have this area be financially sustainable, serve the most possible number of people without existing citizens completely losing it, provide for a variety of uses, restore the street grid for much better neighborhood connections, and bring on more complete streets, have a district wide storm water management system that also creates green space, set aside land for neighborhood parks.

      Believe me there are many U.S. cities that would do far worse in this situation. Is the plan as good as one that a European city would come up with – probably not but, the city is representing Americans, not Europeans.

      Of course St. Paul’s govt reward for this is for everyone to hate them.

      1. Daniel HartigDan

        Can you see that your argument is cutting both ways? You say that “I also have a problem with unleashing a lot of private development within an already grown city with [no] guidance.” But then you point out that in Mpls, “[the city] fought against dense mixed use planning there,” and that “it took some very enterprising citizen activists to get a vision going for that area.”

        The city isn’t the solution, just as central planning never is. If enterprising citizens want to get a vision going, then you should simply let those enterprising citizens incorporate, raise some money, buy the land, and do some enterprising with it.

        This is the thing exactly: no one can do anything with the land because of the legal and administrative costs of changing the zoning and getting the necessary approvals to build something. My dad and I could afford to buy 10,000 sqft across the street from the brewery and build a three story walk up apartment. That would be a spectacular investment, in my opinion, being so close to the light rail and university, it would pay itself off in a decade. But I could never afford to get the zoning changed, and I could never afford to get someone to run sewer to the site.

        I would love to be a small time developer/entrepreneur, but there is no possible way to do that with the current regulatory climate. So my money is instead given to some big Wall Street bank to invest in multinational companies, and is doing exactly nothing to alleviate the local housing shortage, despite my interest in the problem.

        How many people like me would invest what they have into the Ford site, if the place was split into parcels and auctioned off? No need to make big development plans, no need to have big ‘lemming’ developers with 100s of millions of dollars available to do the whole site at once. Letting sites develop organically is pure Jane Jacobs, and is the best way to run a city.

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