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Ford Site Redevelopment

Redeveloping the 122-acre site of the Ford Assembly Plant in Saint Paul started with careful planning. The City of Saint Paul and partners like Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) worked to build a framework for a new neighborhood with designs for stormwater management, energy, buildings and infrastructure. 

Now open, the Highland Bridge community is a beautiful landmark atop a once-industrial stretch of our precious Mississippi River bluffs. Treated stormwater fills the central water feature, flowing to the re-imagined Hidden Falls Creek before emerging at the new Mississippi Boulevard Crossing and tumbling over its namesake falls and ending at the Mississippi River. The water is surrounded by paths, rain gardens, and inviting stretches of nature. It all started with a vision for an innovative, centralized approach to stormwater management.   

The Challenge

Before redevelopment, stormwater runoff from the site primarily drained to Hidden Falls Creek, which flows to the Mississippi River. The creek was moved underground before the construction of the Assembly Plant in 1925. After construction, hard surfaces across the site, like parking lots, rooftops, and roads, sent runoff downstream without treatment. The runoff destabilized the creek and carried pollutants to the river. 

The conventional stormwater management approach for redevelopment requires individual parcels of land to manage their stormwater on a parcel-by-parcel basis. A traditional approach would have dozens of underground stormwater systems spread throughout the 122-acre site. These underground systems would have treated the stormwater but provided no other community or environmental benefit. 

“The Ford site is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apply sustainable practices to a very large piece of land and take a leading role in ensuring the environmental health of the future development for many generations.” – Bob Fossum, Monitoring and Research Division Manager for CRWD

The Solution

Preliminary visioning and research for stormwater management planning at the site began in 2009. Over the next several years, the City of Saint Paul and CRWD developed conceptual designs and renderings to present plans for stormwater management  to the public. The designs were part of a 2016 Sustainable Stormwater Management Alternatives Analysis Report, linked below. Residents weighed in across numerous engagement opportunities, and it was clear that Hidden Falls Creek and an integrated stormwater management approach were important to them. 

The centralized stormwater approach eliminated the need for individual treatment systems scattered across the site. Shared, stacked green infrastructure reduces the overall cost of managing stormwater on the site while adding beauty, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. The plan envisioned a re-created Hidden Falls Creek, enhanced public green spaces, and an improved connection to Hidden Falls Regional Park. 

Sustainable Stormwater Management Alternatives Analysis Report PDF

The Results

The City of Saint Paul and its partners like CRWD took the time to carefully plan the new community’s energy, waste, transportation, landscape, and water needs. As the master developer of the site, Ryan Companies was able to make plans a reality at the new Highland Bridge community. 

CRWD continues to work with residents, City officials, and Ryan Companies to ensure the District’s water resources are protected for generations to come. 



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