University of South Florida St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock has made it loud and clear about the university’s desire to play an integral role in the Tropicana Field site redevelopment.
Tadlock reiterated his stance in a letter to Mayor Rick Kriseman dated Sept. 30 but released to the public Monday afternoon. In part, the letter stated that USF, USF Health and Tampa General Hospital are interested in creating partnerships to develop programs and facilities for education, research and innovation. The university is pushing for a technological campus to be a part of the redevelopment project, and calls it a major opportunity for both the city and the school.
Tadlock previously told the Catalyst of his desire to “be at the table whenever the discussion gets serious.” In an interview after the letter was made public Monday, Tadlock said that with a new university president and a decision on a developer for the site looming, he felt the time was right to restate the university’s intentions.
“The city is down to the choice of two developers for the site, and the mayor is going to make the final decision, I understand, soon,” said Tadlock. “Mayor Kriseman said that he will make the selection before he leaves office, and of course, we are getting close to that time.”
“And with President (Rhea) Law coming in, we knew this was the perfect time to get a letter in writing that we definitely want to be at the table with whichever developer is chosen for that site.”
While Tadlock has made it clear that President Law is fully on board with USF playing a key role in the site’s future, she is serving on an interim basis as the university conducts a nationwide search for a permanent replacement. Tadlock said he would not call it a requirement that the new president supports the university’s aspirations for the site, but he did say the expectation is that they will.
In light of the university consolidating its three campuses to form OneUSF, Tadlock said the letter intended to show the entire university system would play a role in any developments at the site.
“Of course, I will be at the table – because this is St. Petersburg – but I’ll also have with me anyone at USF that might also have an interest in developing any kind of partnership,” said Tadlock. “You’ll notice in the letter there’s a mention of USF Health in there, because Dean Lockwood expressed an interest in being a part of the conversation.”
“I think it’s exciting that we can draw on anyone from USF now.”
Tadlock has been engaged with USFSP’s community partners as well. The campus resides in the Innovation District, and Tadlock is on the district’s board. He said he routinely talks with Alison Barlow, Executive Director of the Innovation District, about potential development efforts in the district – which is also close to the Tropicana Field site.
“We talk about how can USF, and this campus here in St. Pete, really contribute to the community,” said Tadlock. “And the Tropicana site and the development of that is one of those possibilities, something that might be mutually beneficial to the university and the people of St. Pete.”
Tadlock said in addition to him attending city meetings and hearings on the project, some of the developers have called and spoken with him privately to gauge his interest in creating partnerships to add to the development. When asked if one developer has reached out more than the other, Tadlock said, “no, I don’t think so.”
“I don’t think one has been more proactive than the other,” he added.
Tadlock thinks that both developers’ plans are well done and exciting, and said the school’s administration does not have a preference for which is chosen.
“We like both,” he said. “It’s just a matter of the decision on the part of the mayor after looking at everything for so long, making that final call on which one he feels is best for the city of St. Petersburg.”
Tadlock said he is not aware of a specific space set aside for a potential technological center or another component of higher education at the site. He said that once the mayor makes his selection, conversations will begin in earnest. “I don’t think this will happen overnight,” he added.
“Finding the head for the future of this university and the city and the Tampa Bay region – it’s exciting to look that far ahead,” said Tadlock. “And to have conversations about how things can really help address some of the critical issues that we face as people living here, it’s exciting to be part of those conversations.”
Kriseman was unavailable for comment, but his communications office emailed this statement:
“The redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site has and will continue to involve many stakeholders in our community. As such, Mayor Kriseman was pleased to receive this correspondence from the University of South Florida and sees it as just the latest example of the broad interest in the site and another reason why we must keep moving forward.”