Ground could be broken next year on the first of three six-story buildings proposed for the so-called business block at the southwest corner of Ford Parkway and Cretin Avenue. Each of the buildings would have commercial space on the first floor and housing above, according to Maureen Michalski, vice president of development for Ryan Companies, the master developer of the 122-acre Highland Bridge development on the site of the old Ford Motor Company assembly plant.

Highland Bridge
Looking southwest from the intersection of Ford Parkway and Cretin Avenue is this rendering of the civic square, the diagonal walkway and the six-story buildings that will abut them.
One building would face Ford Parkway, just west of a planned civic square at the southwest corner of Ford and Cretin. A second building would be at the northwest corner of Cretin and Hillcrest Avenue. The third building would be along Hillcrest. That leaves room for a future mixed-use development at the southeast corner of Ford and Mount Curve, a site that is being reserved for now for construction staging.
 
The three buildings would have a total of 219 apartments and 45,000 square feet of commercial space. Construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2022 on the building along Ford Parkway. Work on the other two buildings would follow in 2023.
 
The three buildings would have a total of 418 underground parking spaces on two levels—one level for commercial tenants and one for residents. A 20-space surface parking lot is planned between the buildings. A diagonal walkway will cross the block, connecting the civic square to a larger civic plaza just south of Hillcrest. The plaza, which will have a small amphitheater, will be located just north of Highland Bridge’s central water feature.
As planned, the six-story mixed-use building along Hillcrest will face the civic plaza to the south and will incorporate the historic facade of the former Ford assembly plant. The plant was designed by Albert Kahn, the noted industrial architect who also designed Detroit skyscrapers.

As planned, the six-story mixed-use building along Hillcrest will face the civic plaza to the south and incorporate the historic facade of the former Ford Motor Company assembly plant. The plant was designed by Albert Kahn, the noted industrial architect who also designed Detroit skyscrapers.

The Ford plant operated from 1925 to 2011. The facade of its building, roof tiles, stone friezes and other architectural elements were saved. Michalski said those elements could be incorporated in other buildings at Highland Bridge as well.

The building that will feature the facade will also have an exhibit space of almost 2,000 square feet developed in cooperation with Ford Motor Company to honor the history of the assembly plant.

 

Other architectural ‘placemakers’

“Placemaking” elements are planned for the roofs of two of the buildings. The easternmost building on Hillcrest will have a nonfunctioning old-fashioned water tower on its roof. The other building on Hillcrest will have a large outline of the state of Minnesota in neon with the words “Saint Paul” superimposed on it. That sign will also conceal a rooftop HVAC unit, Michalski said.

The Highland District Council (HDC) Community Development Committee reviewed the plans for the three buildings on October 19 and recommended approval of two car-sharing variances for the development. That recommendation goes to the Saint Paul Board of Zoning Appeals in November.

 

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A car sharing variance has been sought by Ryan and its development partners for every Highland Bridge project reviewed to date. Ryan’s plan is to work with the city, Xcel Energy and HourCar on the development of several large car-sharing hubs at Highland Bridge instead of many separate car-sharing vehicle spaces.

The block that is being eyed for the three new buildings is the last block on Ford Parkway to be developed at Highland Bridge. It is located just west of the six-story building that is now under construction on the southeast corner of Ford and Cretin. That building will house a 56,000-square-foot Lunds and Byerlys supermarket and 230 apartments.

— Jane McClure

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