Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
ST. PAUL, Minn. - In 1925, the first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line at the newly built Ford plant in St. Paul. In just a few weeks, and 86 years later, the last Ford will.
So much has changed in nearly a century at the Ford plant. Today, KARE 11 got a rare and final look inside this historic facility - for us and for many others with so many good memories of this place.
Dallas Theis has been here for 53 years.
"A lot of things have changed," Theis told KARE 11 Thursday. "Somebody said to me what do you feel about the building coming down. The building isn't really what made it. It was people that made it. If you don't have the people, the building don't mean anything."
Despite several government efforts to keep it open, the St. Paul assembly plant will close by the end of the year. There are more than 800 workers here now, half the number than five years ago when Ford announced its plans to close. Some will re-locate to other Ford facilities.
"No matter the business realities, our decision has not been an easy one," said Jeff Wood, Ford's director of manufacturing, assembly operations.
"Most importantly, the impact on the men and women that have made Twin Cities what it is today."
But with every end there can be a new beginning and that's what will happen here. City officials look at the site as 130 acres of potential, right next to the Mississippi River - prime real estate.
"This is one of the premier opportunities in the entire region for redevelopment," says St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman.
It will take some time before Ford puts out the 'for sale' sign, likely in 2012 say Ford officials. The plant has to be decommissioned, equipment moved out and there will be a lengthy environmental assessment. No one knows for sure how contaminated the site is from years of manufacturing.
Developers have already been circling the Ford site. Some have actually visited the plant.
City officials see a strong future here, right next to the river with so much history. They are now imagining what could be.
"At one point there were 2200 jobs on the site. We have to look at getting those jobs up there againm," says Coleman. "You have to look at housing opportunities; you have green space and recreational opportunities so there is no question that this site presents an opportunity to really do everything that you like."
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