Two influential players in the global marina industry are poised to make a big investment in Commerce Park, an economically challenged area of south St. Petersburg.
Their investment depends in part on changes in the existing lease and development agreement for Commerce Park. The amended agreement would extend the development deadline in return for immediate job creation — at least 62 new jobs no later than Oct. 15. It also mandates the creation of up to 300 residential units with workforce and affordable housing components, as one part of the 10-year affordable housing proposal Mayor Rick Kriseman unveiled Wednesday.
The St. Petersburg City Council will consider the changes to the development agreement on Aug. 1.
There’s a lot riding on the line for the city, which in the 2000’s cobbled together the long-vacant parcels between 22nd and 26th Streets South, and 6th Avenue South to Interstate 275. It came with strings attached — create jobs or pay the federal government more than $2 million, said Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor.
The deadline to create those jobs is coming due.
In 2016, the city struck a deal to lease the property to St. Petersburg Commerce Park LLC, which planned to construct a building for marina products manufacturer EMP Industries and related companies. Euro Cycles of St. Petersburg also said it would build a motorcycle sales and repair facility on the site. But the projects have stalled and last month the city filed suit to evict Euro Cycles.
Now, the principals of Harborage Land Group are seeking to obtain a majority and controlling interest in St. Petersburg Commerce Park, according to a staff report to the City Council. Those principals are Marshall Funk and Stan Johnson, said Mario Farias, CEO and managing director of Farias Consulting Group, which is consulting on the project. Tom Callahan, who owns EMP Industries and currently represents St. Petersburg Commerce Park, would remain involved as well, he said.
Funk and Johnson also are co-founders of Safe Harbor Marinas, a Dallas-based company that says it is the largest owner and operator of marinas in the world and one of the companies proposing to run the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Harborage Land LLC also has extensive property holdings around Salt Creek, and Funk and Johnson have done business for years with Callahan, Farias said.
The mayor was “very adamant” about including affordable housing in the revised lease and development agreement, Farias said.
“They ran the numbers and they saw the great potential of Commerce Park and what it would mean to the area and to the city developing that on the south side of St. Petersburg,” he said.
The Commerce Park site is adjacent to the historic 22nd Street South corridor, which was the hub of the black business community for years. It’s important that development there be done right, said Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin during the housing press conference.
“There are many details and complexities in the amendment we sent to Council last Friday but the overarching message of this course correction should be clear. Housing that’s affordable is needed and we hear you, St. Pete,” Tomalin said.
She also said grocery stores, banks and other commercial development components won’t survive, unless there’s a focus on developing the people who are served by those businesses.
“We recognize that talent, aspiration and the drive to succeed has always been in south St. Pete, but opportunity simply has not. That’s our job. That’s what we’ve been focused on. Creating opportunity, increasing access and advancing equity in ways that help the sun shine brightly on everyone who calls our city home,” Tomalin said.
The amended Commerce Park agreement lays out a specific development timeline, including a master plan for a mixed-use residential development.
The city said it would begin a land use and rezoning process to permit the construction of 46 residential units per acre. Half of the units would be for workforce housing, for households that make 80 percent of 120 percent of the area median income, and half would be market rate. The city and St. Petersburg Commerce Park also agreed to work together to try to make 10 percent of the units available to households with income of 60 percent or less of the area median income.
The agreement also has deadlines for construction of two industrial buildings, each containing a minimum of 30,000 square feet. The industrial buildings would be made available to EMP Industries, Marinetek, Concrete Professionals, Ferg’s Enterprises and ECOncrete Systems, and potentially other companies, the staff report said.
Ferg’s Enterprises is a project by Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg’s Sports Bar, to transform shipping containers into affordable housing units. He said he’s still in negotiations for the Commerce Park site, which would be for storage and production.
ECOncrete, with environmentally-sensitive concrete solutions, is an Israeli company that is an alumnus of the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator.
The industrial tenants will agree to provide at least 62 livable wage jobs no later than Oct. 15, the amended agreement said. Half of the jobs would be for individuals from households in the low-to-moderate income range, and at least 16 jobs would be for residents of the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area.
There also are options for St. Petersburg Commerce Park LLC to buy the properties, with the price reduced for each job that’s created.
NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct time period when the city acquired the Commerce Park land.