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Batter up: Welch releases new Tropicana Field RFP

Veronica Brezina

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Tropicana Field. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch has released the new request for proposals for firms vying to lead the redevelopment of turning the 86-acre Tropicana Field/Historic Gas Plant District site into a thriving destination. 

In June, Welch announced he would restart the process, opening the floor once again to developers with a requirement that proposals must include plans for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium. 

Since the announcement, Welch and his team have hosted several community input discussions to gather information on how residents would like to see the site of the stadium and asphalt parking lot transform, which has helped form the newly released RFP. 

“This is an historic opportunity for our city to utilize a generational redevelopment opportunity to ensure equitable opportunity for all residents, visitors, businesses and stakeholders,” Welch said in the city’s announcement. “With this new RFP we are calling for a significant emphasis on affordable and workforce housing; arts and culture; research, innovation, and education; recreation; open space, healthy and sustainable development; and intentional equity. We look forward to receiving and reviewing proposals as we prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Highlights of the Historic Gas Plant site RFP released Friday: 

  • On experience: Proposer(s) must submit descriptions of at least five reference projects to demonstrate relevant experience. Such reference projects must include at least one large-scale public-private collaboration, mixed-use, multi-building urban project consisting of at least 25 acres or a project cost of $100 million, among other requirements. 
  • On the Rays: The new RFP states 17.3 acres would be carved out for a baseball stadium. Any sale or lease of development prior to the end of the 2027 Major League Baseball season is subject to the terms and conditions of the use agreement and requires approval of the Rays, not to be unreasonably withheld. For example, any development would need to be conducted in a manner that does not unreasonably impair Rays’ operations or patron access to the property during the term of the use agreement. Replacement parking, though not necessarily on-site, must also be addressed. Additionally, the city must obtain approval of Pinellas County prior to the sale or lease of air rights, which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld if the proposed sale or lease furthers the purposes of or is consistent with the approved Community Redevelopment Plan for the redevelopment area.
  • On housing: Proposers should incorporate innovative solutions to address the city’s housing goals, and this site should include a mix of housing that addresses the needed supply for very-low-income, moderate-income and middle-income households. Solutions can include providing affordable and workforce units off-site, partnering with other entities to provide additional units off-site, including rental and ownership products, and/or a financial contribution to the construction of affordable units citywide. The development must substantially address the need for those earning at or less than 90% of the area median income (AMI) and workforce housing for those earning 120% of the AMI or lower, including on-site and off-site housing opportunities, with affordable housing comprising at least 50% of the affordable/workforce housing mix.
  • On jobs: The development would provide jobs, entertainment, mixed-income housing, and family-oriented places that promote equitable economic development for the surrounding community. A significant portion of the created jobs would align with the Grow Smarter Strategy and emphasize employment opportunities for residents of the South St. Petersburg CRA. It would include opportunities for apprenticeships, youth mentorships and training. The development would also include childcare facilities for residents and employees of the site.
  • On honoring the history: The development would honor the site’s history and provide meaningful opportunities for economic equity and inclusion, in both the construction and ongoing operations of the development.
  • On infrastructure: Approval of a minimum of $75 million in TIF funding earmarked for infrastructure improvements from the Intown CRA, which has been approved by the city and Pinellas County and may be utilized for stadium-specific infrastructure improvements.
  • Land must be set aside for an electrical substation on site and a centralized chiller plant may be considered for the overall site. 
  • On a hotel: The development would include conference space attached to a major flagship hotel. Proposers should demonstrate the demand for conference space in their response.
  • On Booker Creek and open space: Booker Creek and the Pinellas Trail would be central features of the development and green space will be featured throughout the development. The development would include a significant contiguous open space component and public gathering space. It would also include opportunities for arts and culture, and business opportunities throughout the site.
  • On the interstate: The plans should include how the property would incorporate elements from the Downtown Mobility Study, including how it would connect the project site to the southern side of I-175 in both its current and potential future configuration, should that section of the highway be removed or scaled back and potentially produce more developable land area. 

The full 33-page RFP can be found here. 

New proposals must be submitted by Nov. 18. A pre-proposal meeting is scheduled on Sept. 14, which will provide an overview of the site and relevant planning efforts. 

According to a release from the city, Welch “may select a proposal without discussion if it is determined to be in the public interest for intended site use.”

Sugar Hill Community Partners, consisting of San Francisco-based developer JMA Ventures and the Machete Group, is resubmitting a proposal

“We are looking forward to reviewing the new Historic Gas Plant District RFP and preparing a first-class response,” The SHCP team in an emailed statement following the release of the new RFP. “St. Petersburg has a unique opportunity to fulfill the true promise of the site and we look forward to developing and sharing our vision for the project.” 

SHCP and Midtown Development were the two finalists Welch was previously considering tapping as the master developer before restarting the process. 

Contacted by the Catalyst, Midtown Development said it would not be resubmitting a new proposal. 

Welch is expected to select a developer by the end of this year. By May 2023, a term sheet would be completed with the preferred developer. Following the execution of the term sheet, the development agreement is expected to go before city council for approval in September or October 2023, according to the city’s current timeline.

A video message from Welch regarding the new RFP:

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