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St. Pete alters approach to Commerce Park development

Margie Manning

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St. Petersburg officials now are working with two groups interested in development in Commerce Park, an economically challenged area of south St. Petersburg.

The city is talking to the One Community coalition as well as with a development group led by two leaders in the marina industry, said Alan DeLisle, city economic development administrator.

In August, city council members delayed approving a plan by the development group for Commerce Park, the area between 22nd and 26th Streets South, and 6th Avenue South to Interstate 275. The council said it wanted input from residents of south St. Petersburg.

“We are working with the community as directed,” DeLisle told the council’s public services and infrastructure committee Thursday.

His update on Commerce Park was part of an hour-long presentation on the city’s economic development and workforce initiatives, including other high-profile projects such as the old St. Petersburg Police headquarters and Tangerine Plaza.

Outreach

Commerce Park has been one of the most challenging projects the city has taken on. In the 2000s, the city used federal funding to cobble together the long-vacant parcels that make up the 13-acre site, with a promise to the federal government that it would create jobs there.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently demanded the city return $2.2 million. DeLisle acknowledged that demand in an email to the St. Pete Catalyst, but it wasn’t specifically discussed during the council’s committee meeting.

Most of the talk focused on the city’s new approach to split the Commerce Park site into two parcels, three acres on the north side of Commerce Park and 10 acres to the south of that.

The three-acre parcel originally was going to be the home of Euro Cycles of St. Petersburg. The city took back control of that land after Euro Cycles failed to move forward with its planned project.

Conversations about developing the three-acre parcel primarily have been with One Community, DeLisle said. One Community, formed in 2018 to formulate strategies and initiatives to grow the economy of South St. Petersburg, is an umbrella organization that represents diverse voices and ideas, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said.

“Maybe we should do a little more outreach to get to the people they don’t represent that have a vested interest in 22nd Street,” said Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, whose district includes Commerce Park.

There also has been an unsolicited proposal for the three-acre site from T2theS Design, a design-build firm, but the city has not acted on it, DeLisle said.

Employment hub

The city continues to talk about the 10-acre parcel with the development group that’s led by the principals of Harborage Land Group. Harborage has extensive property holdings around Salt Creek; its principals, Stan Johnson and Marshall Funk, 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.

The group is comfortable with the scaled-down site, DeLisle said.

Similar to the earlier proposal that the council delayed, the developers said they would bring six businesses to the site, creating a minimum of 50 jobs. Fifty-one percent of the jobs — 26 jobs — would go to people from low-to-moderate income households, and 13 of the jobs would go to residents of the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area. Thirty-eight of the jobs must be newly created positions, not relocated from elsewhere. The city is talking to the developer about a living wage requirement for the jobs, DeLisle said.

“We remain excited about having an employment hub in south St. Pete with six solid companies,” he said.

Housing and retail also are part of the plan.

“What we see is a mixed-use development that would include office/warehouse in the back of the parcel, about 60,000 square feet, and then residential and retail facing the street,” he said.

DeLisle also said he feels confident the developers will be able to finance the project. He expects to bring a revised development agreement back to the council but did not say when that might occur.

More projects

Here’s a status update DeLisle provided on other key development initiatives.

Old St. Petersburg Police headquarters. Seven companies responded to a request for proposals to buy and redevelop the site at 1301 1st Ave. N. “We are down to two proposals and we are having conversations with both teams,” DeLisle said. He did not identify which teams, but said the project would be a multipurpose facility with office space, retail and possibly housing.

Tangerine Plaza. The city is getting close to issuing a request for proposals for the shopping center in Midtown. Six ideas were submitted last year but did not move forward. “We’ve spent some time rethinking our approach to that development and will issue a new RFP soon,” DeLisle said.

Innovation District. Pinellas County is moving forward with plans for a 45,000-square-foot structure that would house the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a business incubator. The city is donating the land for the site.

NOAA. The city several years ago bid to bring an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the area around Port St. Pete, but has never gotten a response. “We are exploring other opportunities there. We’re talking to the marine science industry in general and to the university,” DeLisle said. A consolidated University of South Florida could have a center of excellence for marine science at the St. Petersburg campus, possibly using land at the port, he said. “But we still have that door open for NOAA if they want to call us.”

Separately, DeLisle said the city finalizing a document on the city’s Opportunity Zones, created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to lift up economically distressed communities and spur real estate investment.

Read more about city council members’ thoughts on Opportunity Zones in an upcoming story in the St. Pete Catalyst.

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