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Sugar Hill, Midtown react to Welch’s Trop announcement

Veronica Brezina

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St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch addresses the media in front of Tropicana Field about his decision to restart the RFP process. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is restarting the selection process of securing a developer to spearhead the redevelopment of the 86-acre Tropicana Field site, meaning the previous prospective master developers will either go back to the drawing board or exit the process entirely. 

On Wednesday, the public expected Welch to announce his decision to move forward with proposals from  Midtown Development or Sugar Hill Community Partners rather than restarting the process and drafting a new request for proposals. 

“Midtown Development has been honored to spend the last few years working with our partners in the City of St. Petersburg on the Tropicana Field RFP. We have made many friends in the St. Petersburg Community,” Midtown Development creator Alex Vadia said in a statement. 

“We are truly grateful for their friendship. We wish Mayor Ken Welch and the residents of the City of St. Petersburg all the best in their future efforts to redevelop Tropicana Field,” he said without explicitly stating that Midtown was dropping out of the race – after working with both mayors in answering questions and revising plans. 

Renderings of the reinvented Tropicana Filed site renderings from Midtown (left) and Sugar Hill (right). City of St. Petersburg documents.

Typically, Midtown does not chase RFPs, but it was initially interested in the Trop site as Vadia has ties in the community. Former Mayor Rick Kriseman favored Midtown’s proposal before exiting his role as mayor. 

Kriseman was not immediately available to comment on Welch’s decision. 

Midtown’s proposal included bringing office buildings, residential homes, vibrant landscaping and creating a web of complete streets throughout the site, but the major emphasis was the group providing a $10 million upfront payment to the city, which could be used for affordable housing or other uses. 

Meanwhile, Sugar Hill Community Partners did indicate it will continue to pursue the opportunity. 

“We appreciate Mayor Welch’s thoughtful approach to the Tropicana Field redevelopment and respect his decision to continue the evaluation process. We have worked tirelessly since fall 2020 to develop, expand, and refine our community-driven vision for the Tropicana site: an inclusive, sustainable neighborhood that is a catalyst for job creation and economic growth,” the team said in a statement. 

“We continue to be inspired by the hundreds of residents, including community, business, and faith leaders, that we have been privileged to engage and work with throughout this process … we look forward to continuing that effort as we move to the next phase of the selection process,” the statement continued. “With respect to the Rays, Sugar Hill Community Partners has deep experience developing stadium and stadium-anchored districts. We accordingly welcome the opportunity to work with Mayor Welch and the Rays to fully assess opportunities for a new ballpark at the Trop and to ensure that the project creates maximum value for St. Petersburg.” 

Sugar Hill was also proposing similar developments as found in Midtown’s proposal; however, it has put a large focus on the creation of a Community Equity Endowment (CEE), which would collect $30 million over the first 20 years and would be used to fund the construction of affordable single-family homes outside of the Trop site and provide grants. It would also establish a convention center, an asset the area currently lacks. 

While Welch is starting the process once again, he did acknowledge the two finalists for their efforts and for working with the city. 

“I am impressed with the efforts from the two finalists in the current RFP process,” Welch announced during a Wednesday press conference in front of the stadium. “They have listened to our community and have responded with their vision of the 86 acres in accordance with our community needs in terms of housing, office space, meeting space, greenspace and an impactful economic development … however, our environment has changed in many ways since the initial RFP was issued in 2020, and we must ensure the RFP meets our current environment and realities and incorporates the most up-to-date information.”

Welch has instructed staff to target the new RFP release for August.

Unlike the bids previously submitted showing plans with and without a stadium, Welch has made it a requirement that the proposals submitted cannot exclude a stadium.

The city will also hold a series of community outreach events as the RFP is developed. Welch is expected to make a decision by the end of the year. 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jared Klein

    June 29, 2022at4:29 pm

    Waste of everyone’s time. This Mayor can’t get anything done.

  2. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    July 6, 2022at2:19 pm

    This is Mayor’s Welch community. He grew up here and chose to live here. He is aware of the needs of All citizens and is concerned about those needs. Al Lang field should be the stadium location. San Francisco has a waterfront stadium and no parking lot. It is working well for the San Francisco Giants and residents of the city. A convention center would provide jobs and so would other retail businesses. Then there would also be room for Affordable housing. A park is Not needed because Campbell Park is across the street.A parking garage for the convention center would be smart.

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