Public comments sought on 56-page update of Highland Bridge AUAR.
A study of the environmental impacts of new developments at Highland Bridge has been released for public comment by the city of Saint Paul. The Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR) addresses the impacts of the proposed University of Saint Thomas softball and baseball stadiums along with a new 330-space parking lot and the relocation of Mica Park.
The Highland District Council (HDC) Community Development Committee reviewed the AUAR on May 16. The HDC did not take a position, but it has expressed support for the projects.
In addition to such impacts as traffic and noise, the AUAR considers ways to mitigate those impacts. The city hired the engineering firm Kimley Horn to conduct the study and prepare the 56-page report. Kimley Horn conducted the AUAR for the original Highland Bridge master plan.
The AUAR studies are paid for by Highland Bridge master developer Ryan Companies. The first AUAR was completed in 2019, after Ryan Companies took over the site of the former Ford Motor Company assembly plant. The AUAR is meant to be updated every five years until the entire development is completed. The new update was moved up to accommodate the changes sought by UST, according to Maureen Michalski, who is overseeing Highland Bridge development for Ryan Companies.
Three development scenarios are compared in study
The new AUAR evaluates three development scenarios—the city’s master plan for the Ford site, Ryan Companies’ initial amended master plan, and the latest plan with the changes sought by UST. The study covers 139 acres, including the 122-acre site of the former Ford plant, the 4-acre Highland Village Center property, and the 13-acre parcel where the stadiums and parking lot would be located. The 13 acres are the former site of a Canadian Pacific rail yard serving the Ford plant.
The latest changes in the master plan involve the 21.6 acres south of Montreal Avenue. These include a 1,500-seat baseball stadium, a 1,000-seat softball stadium, a concourse linking the two, a practice facility, the 330-space parking lot, the city-owned Mica Park and two parcels that Ryan is eyeing for future development. The parcel along Montreal would eventually have two affordable apartment buildings. The other parcel along Cleveland Avenue would be developed for office use.
Little traffic impact expected from changes
According to the AUAR, the developments proposed for the 21.6 acres are expected to generate traffic amounts similar to the uses envisioned in previous plans for the Highland Bridge site. Ryan’s previous plans for the site would have generated 21,791 daily trips to and from the site. The new uses would generate 23,890 daily trips, according to the AUAR.
The AUAR envisions possible changes to the intersection of Montreal and Saint Paul avenues, depending on the volume of traffic. All-way stop signs control traffic at that corner currently. However, a roundabout or a stoplight may need to be installed in the future, according to the AUAR.
Noise study recommended once stadiums are designed
The draft AUAR also recommends a noise study once the designs of the UST stadiums are determined. The designs would be used to model noise levels at various locations during a typical baseball and softball game. The noise models would be used to recommend measures to reduce noise if the noise should exceed a weighted decibel level of 65 dBA at any of the locations.
The Highland Bridge AUAR update was published in mid-May on the state Environmental Quality Board Monitor. It may be viewed online at tinyurl.com/586jcmjx.
Public has until May 31 to comment
Public comments on the AUAR update are being accepted until 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 31. They may be mailed to Spencer Miller-Johnson, senior city planner, Department of Planning and Economic Development, 400 City Hall Annex, 25 W. Fourth St., Saint Paul, MN 55102, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All comments that are submitted will be reviewed and responded to.
— Jane McClure
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