Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A long-standing landmark in St. Paul is standing for its final night. The Ford Plant, along the Mississippi River, will be demolished starting Monday.
For 86 years, vehicles ranging from the Model-T to tanks to the Ford Ranger pickup rolled off the assembly line.
After years of slowing production, however, Ford closed the plant in 2011. In all, 800 workers transferred to other plants or had to look for new jobs.
Now, that empty plant represents opportunity.
“It’s about history,” said Gerry Francis, who took pictures of the plant Sunday.
Every picture Francis takes of the Ford Plant in St. Paul is almost like therapy.
“I just wanted to get a before and an after of what this use to look like,” Francis said.
Francis’ wife, Sue, knows seeing the plant go is hard for anyone who has family that for generations worked at the Ford Plant.
“I wish it would not of gone away I think it’s going to be a large empty spot in the city,” said Sue Francis.
Crews have already begun tearing down some of the smaller buildings on the 122-acre site.
Piles of scrap are already forming. They will be sorted for recycling and shipped away.
St. Paul will make sure the demolition is done with the environment and people who live nearby in mind.
“There is asbestos removal and some of those things and procedures to try and minimize anything that would be running into the river as a result of the demolition. Minimizing dust and all things that might affect the neighborhood,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said.
Coleman says he would like to see this land transformed into a mixed-use site.
“What you can create here is not only an extension of the existing neighborhood but really an opportunity to create something totally different. A sustainable community where there is housing, shops, where there are playgrounds, green spaces all of those things could occur on this site,” Coleman said.
For the Francis family, saying goodbye will be hard.
“I’m sure something good will come about,” Sue Francis said.
But they look forward to what this area will look like once the vision for this land becomes reality.
Coleman said the city hopes to work with Ford to make sure the right developer gets the site.
Being 10 miles from either city and five miles from the airport, the sky is the limit for what this redeveloped site can do for St. Paul and the entire region.