St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch has selected the Tampa Bay Rays and Hines team to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field/Gas Plant site – which will be the most impactful catalytic project to occur in the city.
Welch made the announcement Monday in front of City Hall to a sea of media members and residents anticipating the long-awaited decision on who will control the fate of the massive site.
The decision comes after the city received the evaluation report from HR&A, the third-party consultant hired by the city, that weighed the strengths and weaknesses of each of the four development teams, putting the Tampa Bay Rays and Hines joint proposal and the Sugar Hill Community Partners proposal at the top of the list. The two teams checked the boxes for many of the city’s requirements and needs as the other two contenders – Restoration Associates and 50 Plus 1 Sports – lacked certain information in their proposals.
Welch required that any vying development teams must include plans for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. Affordable housing, equity and investment opportunities for residents, office space and other factors that weighed heavily on the evaluation of the proposals.
Welch said the final selection also took into account the mass of public input the city received from its community sessions and garnering input from residents online. “It became very clear that this is the right choice,” he said.
Welch said it was the “best swing from the City’s perspective,” and that he believed the Rays “decided this is the best place to be.”
A development agreement for the stadium will be reached by the middle of 2023, the mayor told the St. Pete Catalyst at a press conference following the announcement. He said an agreement for the remaining acres will be reached by early next year.
The Sugar Hill group, a top contender, shared the following statement on the mayor’s decision: “We want to thank our team members and friends who have worked tirelessly on this pursuit for more than two years, as well as the residents of St. Pete who have been so consistently generous with their time and feedback. We have great affection for the St. Pete community and hope that the true promise of the Historic Gas Plant District site is finally realized.”
Inside the Rays and Hines joint proposal:
Construction would commence in 2024. The Phase I infrastructure plan includes rebuilding the street grid network through the site, primarily east of Booker Creek. The improved transportation network and civil infrastructure will be designed to facilitate the redevelopment of the ballpark and mixed-use development.
During Phase I, Rays and Hines intend to commence construction on over 3.6 million square feet of the mixed-use development in addition to the ballpark, which would be completed by the 2028 Major League Baseball season.
Prior to the end of the 2027 MLB season, Hines and the Rays intend to commence construction for over 2,100 multifamily rental units on-site with Dantes Partners, its affordable housing partner. The team has a goal of delivering 90% of the 859 affordable and workforce housing units on-site within the first 10 years of development, according to their proposal.
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Stadium cost and contribution? I realize they wish a new stadium on a different parcel. Refurbishing Tropicana would lower cost substantially? Do it in stages? The roof and the field need not change? Some extended structures could be built adjacent to stadium proper? It's been done once already? Some upper deck could be rebuilt, repurposed or deconstructed? Impossible to work with current facility is the only thing I dont believe. I know, they want a new stadium. And I wanted a new sting ray bike a long time ago. I didnt get it. I did just fine.
I think both the Sugar Hill and Hines proposals were strong. Other than ensuring the Rays staying in St. Petersburg, I feel Sugar Hill was a better choice for what the Mayor has continually said was a primary goal of the project...affordable and/or workforce housing on the site. Sugar Hill would have provided almost twice the units of such housing as Hines proposes. In addition, almost 1/2 of Hines' units are off-site. With only 23% of Hines' housing units being affordable/workforce (only 13.5% on site), it is far less than the 30% the Mayor demanded for the Moffitt site, a requirement that killed that deal. I guess the mayor's real priority is keeping the Rays, not housing the communities displaced from the Historic Gasplant District.
By the way, I still feel it was wrong to allow the Rays to bid on a project on which they will share in the development proceeds. That smells of an unfair competitive advantage, perhaps even a serious conflict of interest.
The Rays-Hines design for the new Rays Stadium and landscaping are beautiful. I just wish instead of a bridge from Campbell Park to the Historic Gasplant District, the city would work with the Florida Department of Transportation to transform I-175 to a street level Boulevard with more connections between CampbellPark and the new district. Federal funding is available for transforming interstates. I-175 is a barrier to integration, and a vestige of segregation.
Hopefully, a recession and inflation will prevent this from being built.
Mayor Welch made the right decision here. Hines Development is a very large and successful developer, who likely has the experience, the assets, and the ability, to finance a project of this magnitude. A baseball park - located in a neighborhood can really work - see Petco Park in San Diego.
Even though attendance can be disappointing, the Rays still bring in thousands of people to our city and downtown businesses, eighty one times a year. Baseball in St, Pete had a rich history, it is part of the collective DNA, of the city.
"Here's the pitch ..., Welch squares to bunt and LAYS DOWN a beauty!
Sacrificing so TB Rays award the rookie with a long term contract after City Hall clubhouse tenure expires.
Never forget the people and successes that have brought (bought) you thus far
Play Ball ✍️
My only regret is "affordable" housing for needy St. Pete residents. Since only 859 units are promised for Workforce and Affordable--COMBINED [and this isn't givien in percentages] the result will be on a 60/40 percentage: 515 for Workforce and 344 for Affordable. 50/50 = 429 Workforce and 430 Affordable. At 40/60 = 344 Workforce and 515 Affordable. Compare any of these numbers to the 4,869 units at "market" rate and it appears kinda meager. Perhaps the "offsite" 600 units will help boost the number a little in favor of the Workforce and Affordable people. Workforce people make on average $66,398 a year [$32.55 per hour]. The Workforce people are in decent shape. Not so much the "affordable" group, which I imagine will receive vouchers so the builders don't lose too much money on their housing investment. Such is life for the "little" guy. "Things that don't change...." Still, I support the Mayor for making needed change. So much weight is on his shoulders! He is carrying it well. He's moving the dial forward--maybe not as much as I'd hoped.