Saint Paul Announces Plan for Ford Site Development

15360719 - excavator machine sillhouette ilustratitionThe city of Saint Paul has made a big step in the development of the Ford Plant site in Highland Park: the announcement of a single draft plan in the development of the new riverfront community.

Ten years of planning, a dozen studies, and community meetings have gone into the development of the plan. A master developer may be selected by 2018.

Some highlights from the plan:

  • “It will have a neighborhood feel,” said city planner Merritt Clapp-Smith
  • There will be six districts, and all but one “gateway district” in the northwest corner will feature a mixture of housing and business development. “Heights would ‘step up’ from the Mississippi River on the west, and get taller moving east,” writes the Pioneer Press (St. Paul just took a big step in the future look of redeveloped Ford plant, November 14).
  • There will be a district dominated by condos in two-story, mansion-style buildings; another primarily composed of townhomes, condos and apartments; and another featuring multifamily housing ranging in height from four to 10 stories wrapped around retail.”
  • Many questions have arisen around traffic and parking concerns. “The goal is 4,000 new housing units, with a maximum of 1.5 parking spaces per unit. Shared parking ramps, small parking lots for 20 vehicles or fewer, and limited on-street parking are key features.”
  • The area promises to be green-friendly, including bike paths, car sharing, electric vehicle ports, and LED lighting designed to not block out the night sky.
  • A central stormwater feature will run north to south, with “‘a series of interesting and attractive spaces across the site.’ What begins to the north as a scenic stream could culminate in a pond at the south end that would be used for winter skating, and a connection to Hidden Falls Regional Park.”
  • Plans call for a new traffic connection between Cretin Ave and Montreal Ave to reduce pressure on Ford Parkway.
  • The next Ford site meeting is scheduled for November 21 at 7 p.m. at Lumen Christi Catholic Church. It will focus on transportation and traffic.

Copyright: vule / 123RF Stock Photo

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The Spring Market has Kicked Off, with Twin Cities Housing Availability at a 10-year Low

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2077 Scheffer: Sold in 3 Days

The real estate spring market has kicked off with record short supply, according to a number of media outlets. “Presidents Day weekend is traditionally seen by real estate agents and homebuilders as the start of the spring housing market — the busiest time of year for home sales. The number of listings always rises, and it will this year as well, but inventory is already so low to begin with that even the new listings will not be nearly enough,” reports CNBC.

The national trend is true locally as well. On Tuesday, a report from the Saint Thomas Real Estate Program has demonstrated that the availability of Twin Cities housing has hit a 10 year low. Additionally, the metro median home price was $215, 000 at year end in 2015, 10.4 percent higher than January 2014.

Says Judy Shields, President of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors: “I think there is extra buying pressure right now. There’s a lot of people out there looking and not a lot available, so it just magnifies the problem.”

While promising news for sellers, this is not to discourage buyers. Preparation is the key to winning a dream home. Says Herb Tousley, Director of the University of St. Thomas Real Estate Program, “if you are looking for a home, be ready,” Tousley said. “Get your financing pre-approved. If you find something you like a lot in a good neighborhood be ready to act on it right away.”

Shields and Tousley cite, as reasons for high demand and low supply:

  • the concern of increased interest rates,
  • people looking to buy rather than rent, and
  • businesses recruiting out of state talent.

Mortgage Rates Approach Record Low

The average rate on a 30 year fixed mortgage is in freefall, reports CNBC, despite the recent minor hike in interest rates. They explain: “Mortgage rates are falling because investors are flooding the U.S. bond market. Mortgage rates follow the yield on bonds that loosely follow the 10-year Treasury. Investors are buying bonds as a safety play in a highly volatile and largely negative stock market. Signs of weakness in the U.S. economy, in addition to trouble in overseas markets, pushed the yield on the 10-year Treasury to its lowest level since 2012, and mortgage rates followed south.”

“…investors are looking for safe havens as global stock markets and oil prices nosedive,” writes Lorraine Woellert, contributor to Forbes. “Money is pouring into Treasury bonds and other safe investments, which helps drive down mortgage rates.”

Companies Flocking to the Heart of the Twin Cities

Companies, not just residents, are flocking to the urban hearts of the Twin Cities, reports the Minnesota Real Estate Journal.  Both residents and tenants are drawn to live-work-play areas, like the one expected to come to the Ford Plant site in Highland Park, Saint Paul.  “Tenants are focused today on downtown CBDs or suburban markets that have a lot of amenities. They are going after these live-work-play environments. There is a lot of that in downtown [Minneapolis/St. Paul], so companies are migrating toward that market. They want to attract the best employees, and to do that they need a presence in the downtown.”

Rents Rise while Highland Shines: Real Estate Week in Review

Residential News

The cost of residential rents has climbed 3.5% since June of last year, reports the Star Tribune (“From rents to haircuts, an unfamiliar trend is emerging for US consumers: price increases,” August 1).  It is the fifth straight month with an annual gain of that size, and at the fastest yearly pace in six years. The rising cost of rent is considered the biggest driver of inflation, and apartment vacancy rates being at the lowest levels in 25 years is the biggest driver of rising rent costs.

The Ford Motor Co. development site, provided by Google Maps
The Ford Motor Co. development site, provided by Google Maps

Business and Development News 

The City of Saint Paul has solicited proposals from consultants to assist with the development of the Ford Motor Co. site in Highland Park. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, two firms have stepped up to assist: Abramson and Associates, and RTKL Associates Inc. “St. Paul hopes to create a ‘world-class connected, livable, and green’ project on the site, according to the city’s request. It also wants a ‘net zero’ energy site with green space and green connections; a mixture of uses including a robust jobs component; and a design that encourages biking, walking, and transit to reduce vehicle traffic” (Two companies respond to assist St. Paul with Ford site, August 3). Ford will select the master developer, expected this fall.

Saint Paul in the Spotlight

Week in Review

Twin Cities Business and Minnpost reported this week on “Saint Paul’s Time to Shine,” a review of new development and real estate projects putting the capital city in the spotlight. Some of the projects include a new stadium for the Saint Paul Saints in Lowertown, the Light Rail Green Line, the redevelopment of the Seven Corners hardware store site Gateway sites, along with the redevelopment of the iconic post office site and a possible new practice home for the Stanley Cup-bound Minnesota Wild. (Go Wild!)

“We’ve always thought downtown St. Paul is an excellent spot to invest,” says [Rich] Pakonen [of PAK Properties], who says that the appealing vintage buildings are drawing people from outside of St. Paul as tenants.

He says that he’s surprised that more developers are not drawn to the St. Paul market. “Half of the Twin Cities population lives east of the river. It’s surprising how there’s less competition here,” says Pakonen.

Also in the news, Twin Cities.Com Pioneer Press and Environmental Protection Online are reporting the latest plan for the Ford Plant site in Highland Park to become the state’s largest “net-zero” energy redevelopment, by utilizing solar energy as well as thermal energy recaptured from the Army’s groundwater treatment plant already underway to heat and cool homes.

“The plan is tentative and hinges on factors such as securing the additional acreage needed for the solar farm, cleaning that land and finding private partners willing to finance the green projects.

“I would say the whole of the plan is ambitious, but, incrementally, we think things are very doable,” [Greg] Mack [the county’s project manager for the site’s Energy Integration Resiliency Framework] said. “None of this is new technology; it’s all proven. It’s finding partners to implement it (with us) in the time frame we have available.”

Yesterday, Twin Cities Business Journal reported Sherman Associates is also moving forward with the second phase of its development of the west side flats, a beautiful complex in downtown Saint Paul overlooking the Mississippi river, and featuring retailers and an undisclosed restaurant. Also moving forward, the plan by Timberland Partners to renovate Sibley Square into 134 market-rate apartment units.

“We like the demographics of Lowertown. We also did our market research. I think that’s a good, stable market. The employment that is in St. Paul has always been very stable,” says Ryan Sailer, vice president of development with Timberland Partners. “It was a market we felt comfortable with” (Minnpost).

West Side Flats

West Metro Living

The west metro is looking forward to two new grocery redevelopment projects. Lunds and Byerly’s (now under the new combined name) is remodeling the 970 Prairie Center Drive store, while Oppidan Investment Co. plans a complete tear-down and rebuild of the Bally Total Fitness in Saint Louis Park site into a six-story, 177 unit apartment complex and newcomer grocery store, Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market. After some pushback from local residents, the project may be scaled back to 5 stories, but is moving forward.

Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market

South Side Shines

Apple Valley remains a great place to buy or sell, with home prices lingering above the metro area as a whole, reports the Minneapolis Area association of Realtors. The median sales price rose 7.5 percent from this month last year. Along with Saint Paul and the greater metro area, Miller Grossman specializes in Apple Valley and south metro real estate, with specialized and experienced knowledge in the area.

apple valley may median sales price