This week represents the beginning of the end — the homestretch, if you’ve already got Grand Prix fever — of the process that will culminate in the selection of a developer for the 86-acre Tropicana Field site in downtown St. Petersburg. Seven bids for the massive, transformational project had been on the table, but that number was whittled down to four last month, when proposals submitted by Wendover Housing Partners and TRS Development Services, as well as a joint bid by Storage Rentals of America and Holabird & Root, were eliminated.
Now, four remain, and Mayor Rick Kriseman has said he plans to make a selection in May or June, with a formal development agreement to follow in September or October. The visions of the contenders still standing — JMA Ventures/Sugar Hill Community Partners, Midtown Development, Portman Holdings/Third Lake Partners and Unicorp National Development — will be subjected to public scrutiny and comment at a series of meetings this week, starting tonight with a virtual meeting at 6 p.m. (to register, click here; registration is mandatory).
“It’s going to be a big week,” said Jordan Behar of Behar + Peteranecz Architecture, a St. Petersburg firm that’s part of the JMA Ventures/Sugar Hill Community Partners team. “It’ll be interesting. It’s been a crazy process, but we’re excited. The community engagement piece is exciting to us because that’s where we started. We’ve already met with over 100 people and organizations, so this is just the continuation of the conversation that we are already heavily involved in.”
In-person meetings are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at The Coliseum, located at 535 4th Ave. N., in downtown St. Pete. They will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Capacity will be limited and attendees will be required to wear masks.
According to city government, however, this week’s meetings are just the beginning of the public input process.
“Community feedback will be collected until the final ribbon is cut on the Tropicana Field redevelopment,” said Benjamin Kirby, Kriseman’s communications director. “Input collected during this shortlist period will be provided to Mayor Rick Kriseman to inform a final development partner selection later this year.”
Kirby added that representatives from all four potential redevelopment partners will be in attendance at the meetings. They will formally present their proposals and answer questions.
A topic that’s sure to come up is the number of jobs the Trop redevelopment project will create, and how many positions will be available to local residents.
“We haven’t gotten down to the actual number of people who are going to be involved,” Chuck Whittall, CEO of Orlando-based Unicorp National Development, told the Catalyst, “but one of the things that we’re willing to and want to commit to on this project is that we are going to engage the local community. I would have to hire people [here]. We’re going to have local career fairs to really support the city and its residents.”
Equity has been a focal point of the project from day one. The Gas Plant district, a thriving, predominantly Black neighborhood, was razed to make way for Tropicana Field and its sprawling parking lot, obliterating promises of redevelopment and economic opportunity that were made in the 1970s.
Whittall, for one, seems to have been paying attention.
“We’re really passionate about workforce development,” he said. “We’re definitely going to team up with local organizations and underrepresented groups, and just make sure that we’re doing whatever we can to engage the local community and make sure that they’re getting the best shot at opportunities on the job site.”
Visit the city’s website to take a look at all four proposals for the Trop site.