Public hearing set for proposed UST stadiums at Highland Bridge

As the University of St. Thomas eye land in Highland Bridge for a series of new sports facilities, the St. Paul Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing in early August for related changes to the old master plan for the Ford site and zoning code.

Planner Mike Richardson presented preliminary details to the Planning Commission last week.

Ford Motor Co.’s sprawling Twin Cities Assembly Plant operated in Highland Park for about 85 years before closing in 2011. St. Paul City Council approved a master plan for the 135-acre cliffside parcel of the river in 2017, paving the way for some 3,800 proposed homes, among other real estate developments planned by Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos., the master developer.

In what some have described as a planning curve, St. Thomas recently proposed to build a sports complex on 23 acres of land in the southeast corner of the site west of Cleveland Avenue, part of which is still owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The complex would cover 295,000 square feet of civic and institutional space, including a 4,000-4,500 seat hockey arena, a second ice rink for an indoor practice facility, a 1,000 seat outdoor softball field and a 1,500-seat outdoor baseball diamond. and a parking structure, additions that would require at least seven or eight masterplan changes, Richardson said.

“It took the city more than 10 years to decide what the master plan would be, and now it’s a huge change,” Planning Commission Chairman Luis Rangel Morales said Friday, noting that he had previously responded to public concerns about parking, affordable housing and environmental impacts.

“There are so many questions about it,” Rangel Morales said. “I know we are on a very difficult schedule. These questions should not be answered by (city) staff. The applicant should have to answer these questions.

CHANGES TO THE MASTER PLAN

Among the most radical changes, an already developed public park, Mica Park, should be moved. The 23-acre parcel of land, which includes a significant 15-25 foot grade change at its southern edges, sits just west of the Cleveland Avenue Bridge by minor wetlands. Additional parks are expected to be dedicated as Canadian Pacific Railway lands are added to the site.

The master plan does not specify exactly where the affordable housing will be located, but 110 proposed affordable housing units and additional office space established in a redevelopment plan would likely need to be reconsidered.

Planning Commission members noted on Friday that the master plan calls for 20% of all Highland Bridge housing to be affordable, so replacing planned affordable housing with sports facilities would not necessarily violate that vision if it were to be affordable. there was a commensurate decline in housing provided at market price.

Yet, with up to 763 affordable homes in various stages of planning, they expressed concern about losing any affordable homes.

Meanwhile, an ongoing study of the Blue Line/Riverview connection is examining how to connect Minneapolis‘ existing light rail to the future Riverview transit corridor on West Seventh Street, though whether the connection between the two would one day cross Highland. Bridge. If so, it could follow the Canadian Pacific Railway spur into the site at the southeast corner of the proposed sports campus.

PUBLIC AUDIENCE

The public hearing before the Planning Commission will be held at 8:30 a.m. on August 5, in Room 40 of St. Paul’s City Hall, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd.

The final decision to approve changes to the master plan would rest with St. Paul City Council, which would likely hear the proposal in September.

Comments may be submitted in writing to the St. Paul Planning Commission, c/o Mike Richardson, 1400 City Hall Annex, 25 W. Fourth St., St. Paul, MN 55102. The testimony must include your name and your address.

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