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Inside Moffitt Cancer Center’s $300M St. Petersburg campus

Veronica Brezina

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Renderings of Moffitt's planned campus in St. Petersburg. All renderings are conceptual and were presented during the CBA Advisory Committee's first public meeting. Images: City of St. Petersburg records and Moffitt Cancer Center

St. Petersburg is poised to see the first-ever Moffitt Cancer Center in its backyard, which will bring a caliber of medical expertise and research as part of a new planned development. 

The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute team presented its plans Friday evening during the first Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Advisory Committee public meeting. The committee was formed to review the social and community impact of major projects receiving significant public funding through the CBA program that St. Pete approved late last year

Conceptual renderings of Moffitt’s planned campus in St. Petersburg. 

Moffitt plans to develop a 4.59-acre site at 800 1st Ave. S. in downtown St. Pete into a 75,000-square-foot cancer center that would be three stories alongside a 30-story residential tower. Moffitt and its partner, Atlanta-based developer TPA Group, also plan to build a potential 14-story hotel development and a parking garage with 300 public-access parking spaces.  

Moffitt’s proposed development must go before the CBA Advisory Committee, as the property’s appraised value is $24 million – significantly higher than Moffitt’s offer of $5 million. Moffitt is also seeking an exemption, according to city officials. 

“We want to bring a mini Moffitt main campus to the community of St. Pete. With the exception of surgery onsite, you can expect a full suite of comprehensive NCI [National Cancer Institute]-level care,” Matt Bednar, Moffitt’s vice president of ambulatory and virtual care operations, said during the meeting. 

The three levels inside Moffitt’s St. Pete cancer treatment facility.  

Last year, Moffitt submitted its unsolicited proposal to the city to purchase the site. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman selected Moffitt’s proposal after receiving additional proposals from other groups vying to buy the land to develop a mix of projects, from apartments to hi-rise office towers and hotels. 

Major takeaways and points of concern addressed during the meeting about Moffitt’s project: 

  • Several attendees spoke up regarding the dire need for more affordable housing and how Moffitt and TPA should increase the amount. Moffitt and TPA representatives stated the project initially had less workforce housing in the 350-unit tower and they bumped it up to 15%, explaining it has to be capped at a certain amount to be financially viable. 
  • Moffitt’s cancer center will offer radiation therapy, advanced imaging and screening, clinical trials in Phases 2 and 3, medical oncology, hematology oncology, radiation therapy, infusion and diagnostic services. Although Moffitt will offer these services and consultations, it will not offer out- and in-patient surgeries. A representative with Moffitt said the site does not have ample space to support surgery services, and patients would need to commute to the main campus. 
  • Moffitt Cancer Center’s operations will bring 260 new jobs to St. Petersburg. During construction, the group will employ 3,500 construction workers with a 20% diversity inclusion. The contracting will be done through Horus Construction, which has a longstanding relationship with Moffitt and mentors contractors through an apprentice program. 
  • The public voiced concern regarding the health disparity minorities face. Susan Vadaparampil, Moffitt’s associate center director for community outreach, engagement and equity, said Moffitt is aware of those disparities and it has financial assistance and community benefits programs. 
  • Moffitt representatives stated they are funding improvements for the infrastructure including sewer improvements, which will cost roughly $6 million, and redesign of the road network. An attendee at the meeting said these improvements benefit Moffitt and the project specifically, but not the overall community. 
  • The St. Petersburg Chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America founder Mary Murph spoke on how they can work with Moffitt as there is a great disparity in sickle cell care and research. Several attendees expressed concern that Moffit did not appropriately acknowledge Murph’s comments. Gypsy Gallardo, chair of the CBA Advisory Committee, said she is communicating with Murph about creating a certification program for health care workers.

After the presentation, Gallardo said she appreciated the questions from the attendees, hearing from some of the area’s leading Black contractors regarding business opportunities, seeing a diverse crowd, and the suggestion from a speaker of incorporating art in the project that pays homage to the Gas Plant neighborhood, among other topics. 

She also spoke about her dislikes.  

“I really don’t like the talk about the exemption,” Gallardo said. “I do not think you are all in a position or in need of an exemption.”

She continued to say she met with a couple of the partners involved. 

“We, as a community, don’t want to see the first project covered by this policy exempted from this process,” Gallardo said. “With the package that you are bringing, I honestly don’t think you aren’t going to need it … we aren’t here to slow down the pace of development, we want as much economic impact flowing through our city and community as possible.” 

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch attended the meeting and thanked the public for attending, but did not directly comment on the project. 

A conceptual rendering of Moffitt’s planned campus in St. Petersburg.  

The inner makings 

Nate Pramik, principal at TPA development, explained to the crowd how this project has been a long time in the making. 

He said Mark Stroud, President of The Stroud Group, called him and they met in person to go over the vision of the site. 

“We were perplexed that UPC Insurance [United Insurance Holdings Corp.] controls the property through a 65-year lease. As the property sits today, it’s not developed,” Pramik said, adding that without UPC’s corporation this project would not be attainable.

Pramik said UPC planned to build a new HQ at the site, but due to the pandemic, it halted those plans. However, Moffitt’s team is reserving space for a potential future site of UPC’s new headquarters, which was included in the initial proposal. 

Pramik and Stroud approached Moffitt about the possibility of a cancer center in St. Pete. 

“When we began that conversation, the project really took off and the viability of the project started to make a lot of sense. The mixed-use nature of the project started to gel together,” he said. 

The organizations are also working with Barr and Barr, Alfonso Architects and the George F. Young Inc. civil engineering firm on the project. 

The group told the St. Pete Catalyst it hopes to close on the property by the end of the summer. 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    STEFI ADLER

    May 14, 2022at3:11 pm

    It’s really a shame that the newly proposed Moffitt campus will not have space for a surgical center. Lots of seniors don’t have major transportation and will opt for Bayfront or St. Anthony’s rather than make such a trip.

  2. Avatar

    JH

    May 15, 2022at7:37 am

    Hello people???? Anyone home on the city council and the “development” council? Move THIS project forward! It will bring $$ and people into downtown. I mean really, you have ok’d “affordable” housing by destroying the businesses and shops that brought people to St Pete in the first place. Why not OK something that actually benefits people.

  3. Avatar

    John Nianouris

    May 16, 2022at9:45 am

    What a bad idea all the way around. This development will not bring tourists and dollars to St. Petersburg. Healthcare is controlled in large part by for-profit corporations who tell doctors what they can and cannot do. This campus will leave the poor and uninsured out on the street. There is still no cure for cancer, and treatment is inherently expensive. Why not build a nice city park and create green space rather than more concrete and steel jungles? This city needs real visionaries not political operatives who line their pockets with cash.

  4. Avatar

    Brianna

    May 16, 2022at12:36 pm

    Mr. John Nianouris, you say that because you don’t have a loved one with Cancer.

    Folks, we seem to have it all wrong here. Why are we asking Moffitt Cancer Center, a renowned healthcare company, to develop affordable housing? Why are we giving them a hard time?

    They should focus on creating the best hospital and perhaps provide alternatives with affordable healthcare, which is what they do.

    I would not be surprised if they took their project elsewhere.

    Good luck to us with this approach, and Ms. Gallardo, as the chair of the CBA. She’s doing her significant part in spooking away an initiative that could potentially greatly benefit the community.

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