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Designers reimagine site of St. Paul's old Ford plant

ST. PAUL -- The former Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant site's uncertain future hasn't stopped designers and architects worldwide from dreaming up ideas for what the 135-acre property along the Mississippi River could one day hold. As part of an a...

Architecture and design firm Perkins+Will recently challenged its younger staff members to create designs for the now-shuttered Twin Cities Ford Assembly Plant as part of an annual competition. The competition, which isn't affiliated with the city of St. Paul or Ford, required designers to incorporate renewable energy and mixed-use developments into their ideas.Image courtesy of Perkins+Will.
Architecture and design firm Perkins+Will recently challenged its younger staff members to create designs for the now-shuttered Twin Cities Ford Assembly Plant as part of an annual competition. The competition, which isn't affiliated with the city of St. Paul or Ford, required designers to incorporate renewable energy and mixed-use developments into their ideas.Image courtesy of Perkins+Will.

ST. PAUL - The former Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant site's uncertain future hasn't stopped designers and architects worldwide from dreaming up ideas for what the 135-acre property along the Mississippi River could one day hold.

As part of an annual internal design competition for younger staff members, architecture and design firm Perkins+Will recently challenged its employees to create designs for the St. Paul site. The challenge required competitors to incorporate renewable energy and mixed-use development into their designs.

The firm took submissions from designers and architects from more than 20 of its locations worldwide. After whittling down dozens of submissions to 18 finalists, a panel of local design, architecture and urban-planning experts chose the winner last week, which came from a team from the firm's Dubai office.

Since the firm's competition is independent from the city and Ford, the competition's goal is to generate "big ideas" about redeveloping industrial land rather than to create implementable designs, said Dave Dimond, principal and director of design for the Perkins+Will Minneapolis office.

"If it stimulates conversations outside of this, that's great," Dimond said.

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The winning team's design, called "Talent Factory," included housing, offices, learning

spaces and production space, 25 percent of which were temporary, meaning anyone could could book and use the space via an app.

Merritt Clapp-Smith, St. Paul's principal city planner and one of the competition's judges, said the winning design was well thought out in terms of how the various uses would co-exist within the space. She said it was exciting to see designs from people who are unfamiliar with the site and the surrounding community.

The Highland Park plant was shuttered in 2011 and has since been demolished. Ford still owns the property and is in the process of cleaning it up.

Clapp-Smith said the city is preparing ideas for future zoning and infrastructure changes at the site and plans to open those plans up for public discussion later this year.

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