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Officials evaluate Trails Crossing proposals

Mark Parker



Four applicants vying to oversee the Trails Crossing project are moving ahead to the presentation and interview phase. Renderings: Apogee Real Estate Partners.

A project that would transform blighted, underutilized areas underneath I-275 in St. Petersburg into a vibrant park and event space while connecting bifurcated neighborhoods is moving closer to fruition.

A small group of city officials gathered Tuesday Morning at the Municipal Services Center to assess five Master Plan proposals. Participants noted that the Trails Crossing concept is more than just a park.

John Barkett, co-founder of and president of the nonprofit Friends of Trails Crossing, has spearheaded the public-private partnership. He is also the managing partner of Apogee Real Estate Partners, which contracted Baker Barrios Architecture to create a conceptual plan and start the process.

City administrators have yet to release applicant and proposal details to the public, and Barkett was not a part of that evaluation. Deron Defreese, senior procurement analyst for St. Petersburg, said he is unaware of Barkett’s involvement with the five applicants.

“Initially, he was going to be part of the committee, but they (administrators) thought it was going to be a conflict of interest because he owns some property in the local area,” Defreese said after the meeting. “That’s one of the things they have to provide us – if there’s a conflict of interest between them and any of the firms that have submitted.”

The project will also connect several St. Petersburg neighborhoods bifurcated by the interstate. Screengrab.

While Barkett is not directly affiliated with the applicants, city officials, in an abundance of caution, decided he should abstain from the evaluation committee due to his involvement with a nearby development. However, once the Master Plan is complete, the public-private partnership between administrators and the Friends of Trails Crossing will take the next step towards further designing, permitting and eventually, construction.

The five organizations vying to create the Master Plan are Booth Design Group, Chen Moore and Associates (CMA), Land Design Consultants (LDC), Kimley-Horn and Associates and Stantec. Brejesh Prayman, capital improvements and engineering director, told the evaluation committee that they had to “shortlist” at least three.

They agreed that CMA and LDC should proceed to the presentation and interview phase, set for June 19. One committee member called their selection a “no-brainer.”

While most seemed to prefer Kimley-Horn’s proposal over Stantec’s, the committee decided to include both companies in its list of finalists.

“For me, Land Design and CMA – absolutely, a hundred percent,” said Brian Caper, economic and workforce development director. “I could go either way with the other two. As underwhelming as Stantec’s proposal was if given an opportunity to elaborate on some of this, they might make up some ground pretty quickly.”

Trail Crossing’s first phase will encompass four city blocks from 1st Avenue North to 3rd Avenue South. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) owns and leases the land to the city for parking.

The project would include walking and bike paths; a “green” amphitheater; art walls; a plaza built with repurposed shipping containers; pop-up markets; an area for children; a beer garden; and a dog park.

Evan Mory, director of parking and transportation, told city council members at an October 2022 committee meeting that the project would increase access to the Pinellas Trail and create safer pedestrian crossings. Barkett noted that Trails Crossing would link six disjointed neighborhoods.

The I-275 underpass at 16th Street N. is currently used for city vehicle parking. Screengrab.

Mory relayed that administrators recommend a 50-50 partnership on the project’s master plan, with the city and Friends of Trails Crossing each contributing $150,000. All five council members comprising the Housing, Land Use and Transportation Committee offered their support during that meeting.

The project follows a similar initiative to create a park under a portion of I-375, which opened in November 2022. However, evaluation committee members noted Trails Crossing would also serve as an “economic driver” for St. Petersburg.

That underscores the need for applicants to have experience building mixed-use spaces. Committee members also stressed the importance of stakeholder engagement and would like to hear a detailed outreach plan during the presentation phase.

Some applicants relayed their experience working with the FDOT on permitting, another priority for city officials. However, the evaluation committee noted that none broached the Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment.

Caper called that “the elephant in the room.”

“This (Trails Crossing) is adjacent to 96 acres of redevelopment that will probably be going on similar timing,” he added. “How is this going to coordinate into what the Hines-(Tampa Bay) Rays have planned?”

Trails Crossing would utilize repurposed shipping containers and feature market and event space.

The four applicants selected Tuesday will have about a month to discern that information. The evaluation committee will then score the companies based on the June 29 presentations and interviews.

Defreese said the plan is for whoever emerges to create the Trails Crossing Master Plan. He added that construction would likely require another solicitation process.

“I think it went well,” said Defreese of the meeting. “I think they like a few of them a lot. They will initially evaluate their proposals and kind of have a score on their sheets. But when they get to the presentation, that’s when they finalize those scores, and that’s when they submit them to me. And whatever it says – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – that’s it.”

Evaluation committee members could not independently discuss the proposals due to the ongoing selection process.





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  1. Avatar

    Steve D

    May 31, 2023at8:04 am

    Donna, I suggest trying the “SeeClickFix” app. City officials seem fairly responsive to issues reported on it.

  2. Avatar

    Elizabeth Walker

    May 31, 2023at6:47 am

    What an incredible addition to our bike path system that is growing into a first class safe and fun trail.

  3. Avatar

    Donna Kostreva

    May 30, 2023at6:49 pm

    I’ve been waiting fifteen months to have the city repair the hex block sidewalks in front of my home. My 90+ neighbor walks in the street to avoid the danger. I’ve put up a safety cone. No one at city hall answers the phones, but somehow there is money to develop space under the highway overpass. Can hardly wait to hear the cars racing above.

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