Can PRIVATE property be public?

If most people can't go there, is it open space?

Can the City of St. Paul

really contort something this simple?

They did.   Read on...

Vanishing "Open Space"

Definition from the Ford Site Open Space Guidelines, developed by City of Saint Paul with the Hoisington-Koegler Group in early 2011. These guidelines define Open Space at the Ford site as follows.

Key Definitions

“Open space: Natural lands, athletic fields (even if managed by non-city entity), recreation­al lands, community gathering spaces and recreational buildings which are publicly-owned and/or publicly-accessible. The term is not intended to refer to privately-owned lands, yards, urban plazas, stormwater treatment areas or public street rights-of-way unless, through agreement, the land is designated as public space with a recreational and/or habitat func­tion.”


Ford Site Zoning and Master Plan, adopted by Saint Paul City Council on 9/27/17  according to St Paul Zoning codes ARTICLE IX. - 66.900. FORD DISTRICTS


“Open space is defined as areas covered by landscape materials, gardens, walkways, patios, recreation facilities, or play areas.” p 47 (complete definition)


Mixed Residential and Commercial

Lot coverage by buildings, maximum 70%

Lot coverage for open space, minimum 25%

(p 66) (see illustration 1, this page)


Using these definitions, Ryan decided that a variance was needed for it's first Mixed-Use building, to be built a 2170 Ford Parkway. From the variance request, dated June 5, 2020

#4 “Mixed-use buildings must provide 25% of lot coverage for open spaces, 6.3% is

proposed, for a variance of 18.7%”

Illustration 1, Master plan, pg. 76
open space defined.png
Open space formula..png

But the City changed its mind in June of 2020 when these variance requests were about to go before the Highland District Council's Community Development Committee for consideration.


In an email delivered to committee members, only hours before the meeting, the variance was removed from the request as unnecessary because, using the definition from page 47 of the Master Design (which, BTW, says nothing about private space or public space):

  • "All private property areas that meet the open space definition – ground level or above grade – apply 100% towards meeting the Open Space requirement.

  • Therefore, for the Block 3, Lot 1 mixed use project the 25% Open Space requirement is based on perimeter landscape/hardscape (including the dog run area in SW corner) as well as the above grade amenity deck and green roof area."

When confronted by Neighbors on the committee, PED officials said they'd find all of the explanatory stuff anyone could ask for.

We've received mountains of explanation but not one response that is clear. See example below.

700827 L400 PLANT PLAN_512020-OpenSpaceP

"Private" Open Space

"Open space lot coverage on private development sites is unique to Highland Bridge. Private development open space was never intended to be accessible to the public and is not public right of way, but helps contribute to the overall public realm."  (PED PowerPoint presentation,)