The concept of transforming a site that’s home to a professional sports team is something Sugar Hill Community Partners has faced before and wants to do again.
Sugar Hill Community Partners, a development team headed by San Francisco-based developer JMA Ventures and the Machete Group, is one of the two finalists St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman selected for the redevelopment of the 86-acre Tropicana Field site.
Their $3.1 billion proposed development, which includes $836.8 million in public funding, entails building a hotel with more than 400 rooms, a 1 million-square-foot convention center, which is an asset that St. Pete doesn’t have, adding green space and housing.
Read more about their plans and how they plan to use public funds for the project
“There are lots of real estate opportunities out there, but there are only a handful of projects like this that you get to do in your career,” David Carlock, founder and president of the Texas-based real estate advisory firm Machete Group that’s working with the development team, told the St. Pete Catalyst. “In 10 years from now when someone is studying public planning and they are talking about what’s the best example of urban planning in the country, a really smart, equitable infill development – this should be the first thing you talk about. And that’s the potential of the site.”
Headed by CEO Todd Chapman, JMA Ventures has worked on similar projects, such as the mixed-use entertainment and shopping complex Downtown Commons in Sacramento. JMA, which operates the project adjacent to the Golden 1 Center arena, worked directly with the Sacramento Kings on the project.
“Our Sacramento downtown project took advantage of a large underdeveloped piece of land in the heart of Sacramento and involved hotel, housing, retail, office, and we made it highly curated and it worked well for the community,” Chapman said.
The group has also worked on the Major League Baseball’s headquarters and The Edge Park in Brooklyn.
“The Sacramento Kings were close to leaving Sacramento, so it’s not that much different than the discussions happening with the Rays. We’ve worked on projects from the Amway Center to the Major League Soccer stadium in Cincinnati. We think that’s relevant here,” Carlock said.
“We’d like to think we could be helpful to both parties and figure out a model that incorporates the interest of the broader development in a way it aligns with what the Rays and what the city wants.”
Their plan does incorporate an option for a new 25,000-seat Rays stadium.
However, Chapman explained that it wasn’t the request for proposals for the redevelopment of the Trop site that created a spark of interest for JMA and its partners.
Before the RFP was issued, the group evaluated cities where the most growth was occurring, where jobs were being created or relocated and where millennials were moving to.
The usual suspects were found – Charlotte, Austin and Nashville – but St. Pete was also on the list, which put it on JMA’s radar, Chapman said.
When the opportunity presented itself with the RFP, the group knew they had to pursue it.
“There are two broad types of consideration for us, one is if do we think the process is real, the market is attractive, see an opportunity here and that aligns with our skillset. The other is that we are excited about it,” Chapman said.
He said one of the largest differentiators about the Sugar Mill proposal is the concept of having a mega convention center.
“We proposed it because the spirit of the RFP is looking at what’s the best thing for St. Pete. We believe it would provide a dramatic impact to St. Pete,” Chapman said, explaining that a convention center is a suggestion and not mandatory for the site, but would deliver a gigantic economic impact for the city. “The convention center would bring decision-makers to this market. Say I’m a CEO in Philadelphia and I’m scratching my head asking myself if I really want to stay in Philly when there’s a high cost of living, and I come down here for a convention, then I’d think of why am I not coming down here.”
If the developers are selected to move forward as the finalist, they anticipate the project to be built in five phases between 2024 and 2033.
Sources have told the Catalyst they expect Kriseman to make his decision in the coming months, if not sooner.