After the Tampa Bay Rays move out of the Tropicana Field site, who will be able to afford to move in?
Thursday at City Hall, St. Petersburg City Council addressed that question and others at a Committee of the Whole meeting. The 85-acre Tropicana Field redevelopment site will include both market-rate and more affordable workforce housing, the latter of which City Council members focused on on Thursday.
“We are missing the boat if we are not encouraging affordable housing on this site,” Council member Brandi Gabbard said. “Without including affordable housing … I’m actually very disappointed to see the reduction and the lack of focus on that. …Businesses can come and go. Housing will be there.”
Gabbard said that there will be approximately 3 million square feet of market-rate and affordable housing, equating to 167 units of affordable housing.
Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin was on hand to respond to Council members’ concerns.
“We have conversations about affordable housing more than any other topic … in our community right now,” she said. “This development will serve all of us.”
Council members emphasized the government’s role in providing affordable housing whose prices are not determined solely and entirely by market forces.
“We control price points,” Council member Charlie Gerdes said. “We can economically drive what’s going to be put on [the site].”
Other Council members considered affordable housing in the broader context of a conversation about diversity and inclusion. Council member Gina Driscoll called workforce housing “inclusive,” while Council member Steve Kornell advocated for minority (rather than white) developers.
Tomalin responded to Kornell’s concerns, saying, “We have to be express and intentional about diversity and inclusion or it will not happen.”
Council members voiced their concerns about affordable housing, diversity and inclusion after a presentation from Randy Morton, project manager from HKS Architects, the firm behind the redevelopment plan.
At one point, Morton said, “That site is not attractive.”
Morton’s presentation, however, aimed to show how attractive it could become. According to the redevelopment plan, Morton intends to restore Booker Creek and expand green space in the area. There will be an entertainment center in the center of the site, along with a local business center consisting of mixed-use buildings. Full details of the plan can be found here.
Thursday was the unveiling of the third version of Scenario 2 of the plan. Scenario 2 is the scenario without Tropicana Field, since the Rays will be moving to the new stadium to be built across the bay in Ybor City.
The city of St. Petersburg expects to finalize the master plan by Oct. 1, marking the end of a months-long process that began on June 7 when City Council approved the preparation of a Scenario 2 plan. On Aug. 6, a community meeting was held to discuss the master plan.