Brief History of Open Space at Ford Site click here

It is becoming more and more difficult to follow what's happening at Highland Bridge. The latest surprise is a new proposal for the Canadian Pacific site. This site at the southeast corner of the development had been off the table since planning for the Ford site begun.

Every question about this substantial piece of property (13 acres) was answered with a shrug and a comment about CPN not being interested in selling. There was a planning group which put together a New Urbanist dream laced with bike paths, trails and even a hint at possible transit access.

The January 12th Villager sprang a totally different use for the property, multiple sports venues for the University of St. Thomas. It was so different it's hard to know what people felt when they heard the news. One would have to assume that bike path advocates were a bit taken aback.

The spur is in play! What will it become?

What's so 'sustainable' about Highland Bridge?

Is bigger, denser, or any of the other attributes the City or the builder claims for construction of Highland Bridge sustainable? Let's go over the facts.

Let's start with the contention that new buildings are more sustainable than old stock.

Not so (click here). Costs arising from any new construction make the notion of building affordable housing in todays market almost untenable without large infusions of cash (read, TIF or other deferred payment).


Most of these buildings, which make up much new development across the country are regarded as unattractive and questionably safe. (Click here)

"The greenest building is one that already exists" former president of the American Institute of Architects. Because "there are so many variables involved in a decision to demolish, including the embodied energy of what is demolished and the energy consumed in construction, there are no universal comparative metrics. While some might claim that there was little deconstruction involved in Highland Bridge should take note of all the construction that has taken place on the site to date.

But the buildings going up at Highland Bridge will all be LEED certified and so will have met the highest level of sustainability. Just check out Ryan's publication, Artful Living. "All projects built onsite, both commercial and residential, will be certified to high sustainability standards, making it the most sustainable community in the region. This includes compliance with LEED standards..." 


Not so, US News in 2014 published an article questioning the value of LEED certificates and many others have followed. You can Google LEED to get a better idea.

But it's going to be walkable, have lots of transit and good stuff to make it even more sustainable. 

Ryan's publications report that "more than a thousand trees will be planted throughout the Highland Bridge community" Ryan cannot replace the forest of 100 year old trees they took down for a bike tunnel and playground at Hidden Falls.

A look at the article on this same page about 'open space' should disprove Ryan's contention. What open space there may be goes down with each conditional use permit and variance the developer gets.

Final arguments against calling Highland Bridge sustainable:

  • It has increased concrete surface in Highland Park astronomically and concrete spews more carbon into the atmosphere than any other single element.

  • Most buildings on the campus of Highland bridge will be more than three stories so they will require elevators and cannot avail themselves of a tree canopy so air conditioning will be required.

  • Although we've been told that many residents and customers of Highland Bridge will be using public transit to access the site. Well, as people trying to be diplomatic say, "when pigs fly." The 10,000 people who will live and work in Highland Bridge will drive cars, probably regularly.

So, where is the sustainability that those who advocate for this development refer to constantly (an advocacy group supporting the development, even incorporates the word in their name)? There is very little that a reasonable person would regard as sustainable about this development.

Quote du jour from Jacobin

"To their credit, YIMBYs have correctly identified some of the trends that erode affordable housing, like exclusionary zoning in suburbs and an influx of tech workers in places like San Francisco. But their framework is fundamentally flawed in two crucial ways.

First, by positioning themselves as NIMBYs’ virtuous foils, YIMBYs paint all critics of development as entitled, self-interested actors who have no concern for the greater good — ignoring the fact that it is quite possible to be skeptical of a development for reasons other than personal greed.

Developers play a huge role in shaping urban economies. Yet they’re accountable to their investors, not to the communities where they build."

What's in my backyard Karen Narefesky, 

NLSP remains committed to promoting responsible community development that enhances the existing neighborhood and the City overall. we need your financial support to ensure that we have the resources to help fund this effort, the pending petition, and future legal action. Please consider making a contribution to support NLSP's Legal Action Fund by clicking HERE.  

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