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Community Voices: Downtown Partnership supports engaging outside development counsel for Trop

Jason Mathis

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To St. Petersburg City Council: Chair Montanari, Vice Chair Driscoll, Council Member Blackmon, Council Member Gabbard, Council Member Rice, Council Member Figgs-Sanders, Council Member Wheeler-Bowman, Council Member Foster

Dear Chair, Vice Chair and Council Members,

The Downtown Partnership applauds the city’s continuing efforts to redevelop the Tropicana Field site. You all know – better than anyone – the importance of this transformative development that will define our city’s future. We are grateful to the Administration for pursuing an RFP process that has generated four high quality proposals and we are confident our community will come together to select and support the eventual development partner for this generational project.

The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership supports the effort to secure outside development counsel through an owner’s representative to help negotiate with a development partner for Tropicana Field. We also encourage you to consider working with a consultant to help facilitate a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays to remain in our community. We encourage the Council to support the Administration’s funding request for this support.

There are multiple overlapping issues and questions that would benefit from professional development expertise and an outside perspective.

Redevelopment of the ballpark is important, and we encourage the city to do everything possible to ensure there is a viable path forward for the Rays to remain in St. Pete while still acting as responsible stewards of public assets. Baseball generally and the Rays specifically are an important part of our culture, identity and economy. St. Pete is stronger and better with professional sports as part of our city. We don’t know enough about the Rays’ two-city proposal to have a formal position. There will likely be pros and cons that should be thoroughly explored and understood. We encourage the city, the Rays and the selected ballpark consultant to work in good faith and explore every possible option to keep our hometown team as part of St. Pete.

As you know, the redevelopment of these crucial 86 acres is about much more than just the rebuilding a ballpark. This site’s history as a once thriving African American neighborhood create the opportunity and obligation to ensure that any redevelopment effort is leveraged to create an inclusive, equitable process in all aspects of the redevelopment. Our organization was honored to participate with other community leaders in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative to support equitable development of this site. We will continue to underscore equity and honoring the legacy of this historic site as a primary value for this project.

The redevelopment must also subscribe the principles outlined in the Administration’s RFP including providing jobs, retail, entertainment, art, culture, greenspace, family-oriented attractions, research, higher education, a flagship hotel, conference center space and residential offerings for all income levels. It must also be financially feasible and respond to a post-Covid economy that is still being formed. We appreciate the work that has gone into the presentations and proposals thus far. This is a complicated decision for our community and making this selection should be a transparent and inclusive process.

This is not a simple project. This is not just about simply replacing an aging ballpark or developing 86 acres in a green field. This project is complex, multi-faceted and must meet appropriately high community standards for success. We applaud the Administration for recognizing that this project will benefit from outside counsel and from the experience of a private sector consultant or consultants with experience developing projects of this size and scope in other cities. We also believe a ballpark consultant can help provide an outside perspective and will be one more tool that can assist in negotiating with the Rays.

We encourage you to support this request.

Sincerely,

Jason Mathis, CEO

St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership

 

 

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