As St. Petersburg officials weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each of seven proposals to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, Mayor Rick Kriseman said one concern will be paramount.
“The redevelopment of this site must not serve to advance political agendas. It must not occur to the sole benefit of a developer, or a baseball team, or anyone else. The focus must be on the people of St. Petersburg and opportunities for our people and making people’s lives better. This is public land, which means the public must benefit and they must benefit soon,” Kriseman said during a Tuesday morning news conference.
Kriseman and other city leaders spoke just a few hours before 4 p.m. Tuesday, when the city will make public responses to its request for proposals for what’s been called a “generational development.” The 86-acre Trop site once was home to a thriving Black neighborhood, whose residents lost businesses and homes when the site was cleared to build a baseball stadium. City officials last year said they would be very intentional about ensuring the wellbeing of the Black community is incorporated into the new development plans.
The city received nine responses to its RFP, but two of the proposals did not meet minimum criteria. Seven remain under consideration, Kriseman said.
Kriseman said he hoped the Tampa Bay Rays, who play in Tropicana Field under a lease that runs through the end of the 2027 season, would respond to the RFP or partner with a developer on a response. The team instead made its own offer, which involved taking total control of about 36 acres east of Booker Creek, Kriseman said, but he rejected that idea.
“The moment the city turns complete and total control of the 36 acres to the Rays the city loses all ability and authority to ensure the community’s voice is heard, that the history of the site and the unkept promises are fulfilled,” Kriseman said.
Rays owner Stu Sternberg said he wants to continue working with the city and the Pinellas County Commission to come up with a plan for a stadium.
The city has 21 priorities in redeveloping the Trop site, said Alan DeLisle, St. Petersburg development administrator. Those priorities include green space, affordable housing, local small businesses, a hotel with convention space and equity.
“The equity based elements that are the root of those 21 principles are positioned in the RFP in such a way that they are prerequisite to any consideration going forward,” said Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin. “It is very clear that [developers] are ready to work with the city in a way that moves this site forward in the fullness of its potential, in a way that beautifully honors the history that has happened here and finds a way to elevate it to new standards that will serve as a catalyst to push our city forward to new heights larger than any that can be currently imagined.”
DeLisle also said the city is hiring a team to research reports that there may be a cemetary at the Trop site.
As city officials spoke, a lone protestor stood across the street, holding a sign reading “Black Ancestors Matter. Do the right thing.”
Once the seven development plans are released, there will be a comment section on the city’s website to allow individuals to respond, giving their thoughts and ideas, DeLisle said. In addition, an internal city team of 26 reviewers will look over the seven proposals, DeLisle said. A plan to bring in an outside consultant was withdrawn last week after City Council members raised objections to moving quickly on a consultant’s contract.
Kriseman will shortlist the proposals and then the city will go through another extensive process with more community outreach and public presentations by the short-listed development teams, before the mayor makes a final decision, DeLisle said.
Kriseman said he wants to make a decision quickly.
“This site needs to deliver some justice and it needs to begin delivering that now, not two years from now, or seven years from now. We need to move forward with redevelopment and the opportunities that come with it right now,” Kriseman said. “There are people in our city right now that need affordable or workforce housing. There are people that need jobs. There are people that want to enjoy more green space. There are people like me who want to see this site and its neighbors to the north reconnected to Campbell Park and residents to the south.”
Kriseman’s term ends in early 2022 and he said he would do everything he can to move the process forward, “whether it happens while I’m here or not.”
He said he has not discussed the Trop redevelopment proposals with any of the candidates who have filed to succeed him as mayor.
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