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Century-old religious group supports Gas Plant redevelopment

Mark Parker

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Rev. J.C. Pritchett II, president of the Interdenominational Minsterial Alliance of Florida (right) and board member Rev. Sam Picard announced Tuesday that the organization voted to support and "keep a critical eye" on the Historic Gas Plant District's redevelopment plans. Photo by Mark Parker.

The St. Petersburg-based Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Florida (IMAF) announced Tuesday morning it will support and monitor the Historic Gas Plant District’s $6.5 billion redevelopment.

Founded in 1925, the coalition of faith leaders works collaboratively to foster positive change in their communities. That now includes ensuring the generational project, led by the Tampa Bay Rays and Hines development group, helps fulfill long-broken promises to the predominantly Black residents who once called the Gas Plant home.

Rev. J. C. Pritchett II, president of the IMAF, said 25 of 27 members voted to support the public-private partnership between the City of St. Petersburg and the development team. He also noted that the IMAF criticized previous Gas Plant redevelopment plans in 1979.

“This idea that someone is going to come save the African American community with free housing and free meals … is un-American, naïve and immature,” Pritchett said. “This is an opportunity to get a piece of the pie by participating in capitalism and being entrepreneurs.”

The Gas Plant Neighborhood was razed in the 1980s to make way for Tropicana Field. File photo.

He said the IMAF has a responsibility to speak out about social issues. The organization’s focus areas include promoting voter education and rights, ending the opioid epidemic, reducing poverty and the Gas Plant’s redevelopment.

In the 1980s, city officials began razing the predominantly Black neighborhood’s homes, businesses and churches in the name of urban renewal. Residents received Tropicana Field and its sprawling parking lots.

Some critics believe the Rays/Hines-proposed 600 onsite and 600 offsite affordable and workforce housing units are insufficient to help right past wrongs. Roughly 500 households, 30 businesses and nine churches were displaced from the area.

Pritchett said one project cannot mitigate centuries of systemic racism. He called it unfair to expect Mayor Ken Welch to achieve something “in 45 months that no one else could accomplish in 45 years.”

“It’s not fair to say that 86 acres are going to be this unique, utopian housing solution,” Pritchett added.

IMAF board member Sam Picard, a pastor at the Missio Dei Community, agreed. He believes it is impractical to think the chronic homeless community he serves could afford to live downtown.

Picard noted Welch is a Gas Plant descendent with a “deeply personal stake” in ensuring the project’s benefits are “broadly shared.” He believes Rays’ leadership has “proved that they really want to be a good community partner over the years …”

“It doesn’t mean we take our eyes off them,” Picard said. “It means that this feels like a good fit. It feels like the best deal that’s going to come out of this.”

A site plan of the $6.5 billion redevelopment project. Image provided.

Pritchett stressed the importance of keeping a critical eye on the public-private partnership while ensuring the community does not miss an opportunity. A proposed benefits package includes $15 million for city-led affordable housing initiatives, $10.5 million in small business assistance, $6.25 million for workforce development, $10 million to build a new Woodson African American Museum of Florida, $7.5 million for educational purposes and $3.75 million to support supplier diversity and entrepreneurship programs.

Pritchett, pointing to a 1979 St. Petersburg Times article, said the IMAF – unlike some organizations – has never sought “reparations or a handout.” He said they have advocated for housing, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities at the site.

Project opponents say the public impacts do not justify the city selling about 65 acres of prime real estate to the Rays/Hines for $105 million. “Many people would love for us to miss this opportunity,” Pritchett said.

Picard called it logical to question any municipal stadium deal. He and Pritchett also noted the IMAF includes people of various faiths, races and backgrounds, and not everyone completely agrees with the redevelopment plans.

“We do support it, but also continue to watch and make sure that the promises that are made now are really kept …,” Picard said. “It balances what you can reasonably get out of a deal like this.”

 

 

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Steven Brady

    February 21, 2024at11:41 am

    There are hundreds of reasons why there are different financial outcomes between groups and sub groups of people.

    Systemic racism wouldn’t even be in the top hundred reasons to explain financial differences between groups. Has there been systemic racism against whites? Then how do we explain that Jewish and Asian people do wildly better than the average white in this country? On average, blacks from the islands and from Africa do significantly better financially than whites born and raised in the United States.

    There hasn’t even been arguable systemic racism for decades.

    That it’s repeated so often makes people believe it’s true.

    It’s time the systemic racism trope gets permanently put to bed.

  2. Avatar

    J.C. Pritchett II

    February 21, 2024at11:24 am

    Karyn. You are correct. I was amazed at your comfort level suggesting what is best for our community since you have recently arrived.

    Thanks for looking out for us.

  3. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    February 21, 2024at5:35 am

    Do your duty, Council. Kill this deal.
    Current and future residents of St. Pete are not responsible for the dumbass choices decades ago. The Trop should have never been built in the first place. Let’s finally get this right.

  4. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    February 21, 2024at1:37 am

    I am saddened by the deal. Why is there luxury housing planned???There was no such homes there. There were nice homes owned by professionals such as doctors and educators. I also do not see the benefits for the residents of St. Petersburg or Pinellas County. Where will fans park? If they park down town or at least a mile away, how will they get to the stadium? Will there be any type of mass transit for coming from across the bridges from Hillsborough or Manatee and Sarasota counties or other areas??? What is wrong with the current stadium that cannot be upgraded????

  5. Avatar

    Rev. Andy Oliver

    February 20, 2024at10:30 pm

    IMAF has financially benefitted through sponsorships of the Rays. As have other organizations who are supporting this deal. Would love to see a story that follows the money. It is too important of a decision to not disclose these facts.

  6. Avatar

    Karyn Mueller

    February 20, 2024at9:38 pm

    JC Pritchett confronted me at the City Hall on tour at Child’s Park and asked “do you think you’re qualified to be on the CBAC since you’re new?!” I replied that I did indeed feel I was qualified. He told me he tried to find me on Facebook and wanted to have coffee. He said they had the votes and the deal was going to go through.
    I went to the City Hall to ask the administration why the Rays/Hines group has the “Right to Assign” in the draft development terms, meaning they can sell parcels once they put the land in their name. I did not get a sufficient answer.
    I stand by my vote in the Community Benefits Advisory Council that the public benefits are wholly inadequate compared to the massive subsidy the public is providing to Rays/Hines in the form of $400 million stadium subsidy ($704 million in bond debt with interest) in addition to very valuable development rights in exchange for a greatly reduced purchase price of the 60 acres of land.
    This deal is not being managed appropriately for a democratic society and the public is not being represented in this deal.

  7. Avatar

    Velva Lee Heraty

    February 20, 2024at8:18 pm

    As a past business developer for Kriseman, Alan DeLisle knows these things. I wish he were brought on an a knowing pair of eyes. Someone needs to keeps these men in check. Hines is responsible for the 60 million overrun on our new Pier which, as all agree, does not look like a a 100 million+ development. I for one fully support oversight given the history of the developer. We all should be onboard with that regardless of race or religion.The Rays should be onboard. The “good eye” should be on residential tax and utility bills because WE, the residents, will pay dearly if we don’t.

  8. Avatar

    Mike Connelly

    February 20, 2024at6:52 pm

    Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Florida (IMAF)???

    Last I checked Churches Religion etc are tax exempt.

    They are going to keep an eye on the plannedcproposal of 500mm + ???

    Use your good eye 👁️.And call out the seeing eye dawgs 🙄⚖️

  9. Avatar

    Alan DeLisle

    February 20, 2024at5:08 pm

    The promises have already not been kept. It’s worse than the same old projects from the past. The construction participation numbers are just goals, not requirements. Same old, same old.

    The affordable housing is pathetic, only 600 on site at very high affordability thresholds. The Midtown development was 1800 on site at low thresholds. Same old, same old.

    And where is the bridge to Campbell Park and the improvements to Rt. 175. Silence! Stay strong St Pete and dig deep. This is a horrible deal for the city — just like Miami — and a great deal for only the Rays. Demand to see the Development Agreement before any support is given. It will be a mess based on the embarrassing Term Sheet.

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