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Thanks to many: The St. Pete Catalyst, for the timely news on the Tropicana Field redevelopment bidding; a big shout-out to Mayor Welch for listening and asking questions; and good luck to the finalist developers, Midtown and Sugar Hill. We look forward to hearing from all of you.
First to Mayor Welch, thank you so much for doing what you said you’d do – take a deeper look into the excellent work on Tropicana Field development that the Kriseman staff left for you. Thank you for keeping those two strong developers in the game. And thanks for placing affordable housing as No. 1 on the priority list, and for placing townhome/condo ownership as No. 2.
And thank you also, Mayor, for including the disparity study, the Community Benefits Agreement, the community’s heritage, small and local businesses, mass transit connections, and, not least, for talking to the Rays and the City Council: these are all great starts. Many of these focal points came out of the Community Conversations in December before you became mayor. Please do another such Conversation for this final round of Trop development.
Next a request for both the mayor and his staff, but also for Midtown and Sugar Hill. In regard to the No. 1 question, on housing, please include all of the affordable income levels in your report: that is, less than 30 percent, 30 to 50 percent, and 50 to 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). We face a severe affordable housing crisis in St. Petersburg, and Tropicana redevelopment must be a big part of the solution. To do that, we must focus on where the problems are, in the 30 to 50 percent levels for renters. The burden of paying more than 30 percent of income for housing hits from 75 to 85 percent of these households. And an astonishing 83 percent of the more than 30 percent AMI group pay more than 50 percent for rent.
Please, Midtown and Sugar Hill, respond with a substantial commitment at these lower income levels. The mayor is right – the majority of local renter households are low income, and half of these are below 50 percent of the AMI. That’s some 12,000 households that might be left out if we don’t build to include the lowest two AMI levels.
Our best to both Midtown and Sugar Hill in answering these important questions. They will be posted on the Trop website.
The current proposals are on the website; they are called “Summary Responses” and read quite easily. Also, one can submit a public comment. As the website says, “Community feedback will be collected until the final ribbon is cut on the Tropicana Field redevelopment.” For this to come out right, it needs your input.
Dick Pierce has been a member of ASPEC, the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College, for eight years. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer only. No endorsement of these opinions by ASPEC or Eckerd College is either expressed or implied.