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Three Trop site proposals out of the running as city narrows list

Brian Hartz

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Unicorp National Development's "Petersburg Park" is on the shortlist of proposals for the Tropicana Field site.

The City of St. Petersburg has shortlisted four proposals for the redevelopment of the 86-acre Tropicana Field site, eliminating plans submitted by Wendover Housing Partners and TRS Development Services, as well as a joint bid by Storage Rentals of America and Holabird & Root.

The remaining firms will be asked to submit additional details about their visions for the site, the city announced in a news release on Monday. They will also be required to participate in “robust public engagement,” the release stated.

“We received many quality submissions to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, and I am thankful for the time, money and energy that each team expended,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman stated in the release. “Four submissions clearly stood out as truly exceptional and I am excited for our residents to learn more about each one. The future of that site, with or without baseball, has never been brighter. As I’ve said time and again, this is our chance to get it right, and to right wrongs. I encourage everyone to remain engaged in this process as we move forward.”

Proposals by JMA Ventures/Sugar Hill Community Partners, Midtown Development, Portman Holdings/Third Lake Partners and Unicorp National Development remain in the running. The city did not specify why the other plans were eliminated but stated, in the release, “The four shortlisted firms best represented the criteria contained within the RFP, which represented years of community feedback, ideas, and input. The four firms have a proven track record of executing large, mixed-use developments and will have an opportunity to showcase their vision for the site in the months ahead.”

Unicorp National Developments CEO Chuck Whittall, in an email to the Catalyst, said his company is “very excited” to be shortlisted but has higher aspirations. “We don’t want to be runner-up; we want to win the project,” he wrote. “We are looking forward to sharing our vision for the property with the public, and getting their input and feedback.”

JMA Ventures/Sugar Hill Community Partners Development Manager David Carlock also weighed in on the news in a statement emailed to the Catalyst.

“We are pleased that the City of St. Petersburg has included our team on the Tropicana Field redevelopment shortlist,” Carlock wrote. “Our team has deep ties to St. Petersburg and brings extensive local and international experience to the project. Our team is highly focused on understanding the community’s hopes and needs for a redeveloped Tropicana Field. Input is critical to developing a plan that fully realizes the site’s potential as a catalyst for economic growth, equity, and inclusion.

Kriseman, who will leave office in early 2022 after serving two consecutive terms as mayor, has vowed to choose a finalist for the development instead of handing over the process to his successor. However, the city remains at an impasse with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are contractually, though unhappily, bound to play at the Trop through 2027. The team has made no secret of its dissatisfaction with the stadium over the years and has been looking for a new home across the bay in Tampa, and even across the U.S. border in Montreal.

Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg, though, has expressed a willingness to reconsider the Trop site as the team’s home. The Rays recently submitted to the city an informal, very high-level offer that would see the team control about 36 acres of the site. Kriseman quickly rebuffed the proposal, stating, “The city would receive no financial interest from transferring ownership of the land to the Rays, nor would the city receive development right proceeds on this land as it was developed. The Rays would retain 100 percent of those proceeds.”

Then, in his final State of the City address as mayor, Kriseman continued to point the finger at the Rays, accusing the team of standing in the way of the site’s redevelopment.

“The Rays,” he said, “have spent more than half their existence trying to figure out where they’d like to play baseball for the long term. We love our Rays, but it’s time for them to pick a partner and get married.”

Political bickering aside, the time has come for the public to weigh in on what the future holds for the Trop site. The city has scheduled a series of public meetings, two in person and one virtual, to gather feedback about the four remaining proposals.

The virtual meeting takes place first, on April 5, followed by in-person meetings on the 7th and 8th. Time and location details are to come. Social distancing guidelines will be in place and masks will be required for in-person meetings.

For more information, or if you’re unable to attend the meetings and would like to submit feedback about the proposals, visit stpete.org/trop.

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