If you drive through Highland Park in St. Paul, you’ll likely see identical signs peppering the lawns of concerned residents. Well, that’s to say 2 sets of identical signs – one supporting and one against the proposed Ford site plan. The proposal, linked here, is one for a self-described “21st Century Community.” To planners, 21st Century means high density, mixed-use with some green space throughout. As detailed in this MPR article, plan supporters believe it can help solve some of the major issues currently facing the city, namely a housing shortage and a gap in the city’s budget. The plan includes up to 4,000 housing units in buildings that have the potential to dwarf their surroundings – with limits between 6 and 10 stories. The boon to the overall budget is of course increased tax income for the city from all the extra economic activity.
As explained in the same article, neighbors opposing the plan have a few major concerns. They balk at the proposed building height limits, afraid that towering buildings would disrupt the prized views along the Mississippi. Then there’s the plethora of issues that come with adding 4,000+ residents. These residents and the thousand plus body of workers would add traffic to an already perpetually clogged area along Ford Parkway, Cretin and Cleveland Avenues. And they’ll bring kids that will likely go to high-demand neighborhood schools. Plan challengers are also wary of new development standing out and disrupting a somewhat cohesive neighborhood feel. It’s really only further out from Ford Parkway that the new development would disrupt any sort of aesthetic cohesion, since the Parkway has its fair share of varying building heights, styles and eras covered. As shared in the article, these concerned neighbors want a plan with low-density mixed-use buildings with plenty of green space and parks to break it up.
The latest thorn in the collective planners’ side is how much of the housing units should be designated low-income, and at what level. As detailed in this Pioneer Press article, certain advocate groups say the current 20% of units set-aside for people earning 50-60% of area median income is both not a high enough percentage of overall units and not addressing the need of those earning even less. They’d like to see an additional 10% of units put aside for those earning up to 30% of area median income. To try to appease critics as well as allow for continued discussions while plans move forward, some city council members proposed that 20% of the units be reserved for those earning from 30%-60% of the area median income: compromise.
It’s an exciting time for Highland Park and St. Paul in general, with a lot riding on this plan. We’re glad we’re not the ones making the decisions, but we are happy to do our part creating new, responsible area residents. If you’d like to get in to this dynamic neighborhood of our capital city, please reach out (952-258-3100 or email.)
Photo credit: goodfreephotos.com