Fresh Energy statement: We must be bolder with Ford site redevelopment

By |
Fresh Energy senior policy associate, Margaret Cherne-Hendrick, testified on April 3 in front of City Council regarding the proposed amendments to Ford site plans for redevelopment

As a part of a coalition of organizations that have tracked the Ford site redevelopment for the past several years, Fresh Energy knows there is an opportunity for Saint Paul to model sustainability and forward-thinking climate resiliency. The Ford site must be built with super-efficient buildings and powered without fossil fuels.

When starting from scratch, with new infrastructure in new buildings, we have a rare and important prospect to do things differently. And in order to create a 21st century community that will shape the future of Saint Paul and the entire region, we must be bold in realizing the Ford site’s full potential.

Fresh Energy is heartened to know that the site will be advancing SB 2030, Minnesota’s building energy conservation program, and looking at clean energy solutions. Super-efficient and sustainable buildings will reduce energy use and lower carbon emissions. Powering activity with renewable electricity from nearby hydro and onsite solar is both cost-effective and carbon-free. Investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure will enable clean, quiet, and healthy transportation options.

But we must be bolder.

SB 2030 requires that houses built on the Ford site demonstrate an 80-90% reduction in carbon producing fuel used for building energy. Why not aim to power buildings with 100% carbon-free energy without relying on any fossil fuels at all?

Doubling investment in parking infrastructure for single-occupancy vehicles runs the risk of increasing traffic congestion and tailpipe emissions across the site. Why not advance a truly walkable and bikeable community that promotes electrified car sharing and strong public transportation?

Let’s embrace innovative ideas and make sure the Ford site redevelopment is a demonstration of how communities of the future can and should be carbon-free, clean, accessible, and affordable for all.

Doing something special doesn’t mean that it’s easy, it’s special because it’s hard. And doing something hard requires that people are willing to come to the table and support the City and support the developer to see the challenges forward and to figure out how to do things in new and better ways.

Fresh Energy stands ready and willing to continue to work with partners on this site to ensure this isn’t just a regular development, but a place that embraces the best of us socially, environmentally, and economically, a place for all people that honors our moral obligations to address climate change and to provide amenities for all of our citizens. 

Update: On April 10, Saint Paul City Council voted in favor of amendments to the Ford Site redevelopment plan that included additional parking and single-family residences along the riverfront. While Fresh Energy is disappointed with this decision, there are many details yet to be determined and there are still ample opportunities to embed clean energy and transportation options into the site as the project unfolds. We will continue to be actively involved in these discussions.