Pioneer Press: On the Ford Plant, Summit Hill houses, Phalen lights and more …

Pioneer Press


The Ford Plant legacy

There are lessons for St. Paul in its experience as home to Ford’s former Twin Cities Assembly Plant — lessons we’re at risk of losing.

The effort to make sure that doesn’t happen is taking a new turn this fall with organization of Ford Legacy Minnesota. A website — — will serve as a focal point for the effort, as will an organizational meeting, set for Oct. 20.

The plant closed in 2011, leaving a prime 125-acre redevelopment site atop the Mississippi River bluffs and a legacy as an economic engine in St. Paul for more than 80 years.

Attracting Ford to the site in Highland Park was a “watershed moment” for St. Paul, said Brian McMahon, who is championing the legacy effort.

It drove development of the manufacturing sector, literally galvanizing the economy in St. Paul, said McMahon, executive director of University United, a citizen- business coalition in the Midway area. The work to bring Ford here — uniting the business community, neighborhoods, associations, elected officials and others — “is remarkably instructive on how to attract economic development.”

McMahon teamed with others last fall to host a display of Ford plant memorabilia and a Ford-themed car show, and worked to save a showroom on the site. Ford later announced it would preserve some architectural and decorative features.

Though decisions about the site may be years away, McMahon suggests it’s time to determine “who will be the custodian of these architectural artifacts. ” If they’re forgotten, they will be lost, he said.