An artist’s rendering of the central water feature at the newly christened Highland Bridge, looking north toward Ford Parkway.

Ryan Cos. reveals new name, new partners for 122-acre development

By Jane McClure

Ryan Companies, master developer of the former Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Highland Park, unveiled a new name for the 122-acre site and new partners for redeveloping it during a virtual groundbreaking for the $1.3 billion project on July 14.

Ryan has christened the future neighborhood of 3,800 homes, 55 acres of parks and open spaces, 150,000 square feet of retail space and 315,000 square feet of office and institutional space Highland Bridge. The name refers to the urban village’s connection to the surrounding Highland Park neighborhood.

Ryan’s newest partners in the development are PulteGroup, which will build and market 320 rowhouses, and Presbyterian Homes & Services, which will build a senior housing complex with independent and assisted-living apartments and memory care units.

   

The groundbreaking video was released against a backdrop of controversy over Highland Bridge’s first project, a five-story mixed-use building that Ryan is developing with partner Weidner Apartment Homes at the southeast corner of Ford Parkway and Cretin Avenue. Plans for that building call for four levels of market-rate apartments above a 50,000-square-foot supermarket on the ground floor. 

Ryan was granted variances for building heights and window areas for that project, but variances for lot coverage and car-sharing spaces were denied by the Saint Paul Board of Zoning Appeals. Ryan has filed an appeal of the rejected variances, which will be taken up by the Saint Paul City Council at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 22.

However, the focus at the groundbreaking was on the Highland Bridge project as a whole. “We’ve paid particular attention to what makes Highland Park special, and our goal is to uphold those unique qualities, to expand upon them, and to create a place where people thrive for generations,” said Mike Ryan, president of Ryan Companies’ north region.

 

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“In creating the new vision for the Ford site, we paid considerable attention to the core tenets of the master plan, significant input from the community, the Highland District Council, city leaders, and of course the legacy that Ford created,” said Tony Barranco, Ryan Companies senior vice president. “We wanted to respect the rich history of the site and honor the heart and soul of Saint Paul.”

Ryan Companies closed on its purchase of the former Ford property in December after working with Ford, city officials, local residents and business people on an amendment to the city’s master plan for the site.

“In creating the new vision for the Ford site, we paid considerable attention to the core tenets of the master plan, significant input from the community, the Highland District Council, city leaders, and of course the legacy that Ford created,” said Tony Barranco, Ryan Companies senior vice president. “We wanted to respect the rich history of the site and honor the heart and soul of Saint Paul.”

“We’re thrilled to partner with Ryan Companies and the city of Saint Paul to bring housing to Highland Park, an unmatched location with a rich history and an exciting vision for its future development,” said Jamie Tharp, Minnesota Division president for Atlanta-based PulteGroup, which was known for many years as Pulte Homes. “This rowhome community will feature a historic idea rethought with innovative and contemporary floor plans designed to complement city living with rooftop terraces, brick facades and open floor plans.”

The rowhouses will range from 1,900 to 3,000 square feet with prices starting in the upper $300,000s. Construction is expected to begin this winter with the first homes available for closing in the winter of 2021-22. PulteGroup will work with Ryan and Habitat for Humanity to build six affordable rowhouses. All of the rowhouses will be built along a central water feature that will be fed by stormwater.

Roseville-based Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), which was founded in 1955, offers a wide range of senior housing and services. The proposed complex at Highland Bridge is expected to create more than 100 jobs.

“Our faith-based heritage provides a clear vision to extend our mission into areas of unmet need, such as at this forward-thinking development,” said Jon Fletcher, vice president of Senior Housing Partners, the project development arm of PHS. “In concert with the city of Saint Paul, Ryan Companies and community stakeholders, we have an excellent team assembled to create a welcoming environment for all.”

The July 14 groundbreaking was also a chance to highlight Ryan’s partnership with Xcel Energy to provide 100 percent renewable energy at Highland Bridge. Residents and businesses will be able to subscribe to locally generated solar and hydro energy and to power their electric vehicle at charging stations throughout the site.

“This is an exciting project for Xcel Energy, our customers and this unique urban development,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “We’re already leading the clean energy transition with a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030. Today we’re taking another step to provide our customers with clean and affordable energy sources that reduce our carbon footprint.”

The groundbreaking included a look back at the Ford site’s long history as a motor vehicle manufacturing plant and an ancestral home of the Dakota people. Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter read a proclamation honoring Dakota people past and present who have lived in the area.

“It’s important to recognize the significance of this land to those who were here before,” said Shelley Buck, president of the Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council. According to her, the property still has deep meaning for the Dakota people.

Further information on the development is available at highlandbridge.com. The website will be updated frequently with the latest information on specific projects and construction schedules.

A rendering of the Highland Bridge Civic Square.

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