Here’s Why Sugar Hill is a Homerun—
Residents of Tampa Bay were surprised when Mayor Ken Welch refined the specs for St. Petersburg’s Historic Gas Plant District revitalization. Many concluded that the decision was fixed, with a developer already prized for the 86-acre project.
It should be clear, though, that Mayor Welch was no buy-in. His nativity and deep community service translate comprehension of the city’s biggest economic blunder, which occurred nearly 40 years ago. With the construction of Tropicana Field, three historical African American neighborhoods were failed and tragically displaced. This is where two ghastly towers once stood, giving the district its name. In this name, are the promises of housing and economic opportunity to families and businesses who were rooted there. While the flairs of grandeur in that campaign were not delivered, Welch does intend to make amends with honor.
He and his team’s success relies on community input and they have hosted abounding public meetings. Resident polls have been cast, founding floors for feedback through drop-boxes in areas of the city. These sentiments, in tandem with the COVID-19 pandemic and national affordable housing crisis, could be the reasons behind a new Request for Proposals: to include a stadium as part of plan revitalization.
The City of Tampa has tried at the Rays for 2027 come the fulfillment of their contract with St. Petersburg. There is no “striking out” the fact that a stadium would add economic vitality back to the city, and the bat is in Welch’s hands. The vision is a whole and cohesive community, which has not existed since the Trop. To do this, four new proposals must be carefully examined, and a valiant swing made by end of January.
But, only one of the original bidders submitted a new plan: Sugar Hill Community Partners.
Sugar Hill has been the primary participant in bidding, with three new bids on board after the recent RFP was drawn.
While all the revitalization plans are considered adequate, the Sugar Hill plan has concentrated on hearing from the community, where meeting their needs is second to none. The team’s M.O. anoints for local business involvement and especially historical knowledge.
They intend to provide stipulations to residents that were never realized.
The proposal is that of 50 percent of units in the affordable housing market, economic and housing opportunities for the stadium and areawide workforce, hotels, art centers, parks, and abounding amenities. Urban farming is also proposed, making fresh produce available to those who live and work there.
Every part of the 86-acre development will be ADA-compliant.
A closer look
Gas Plant’s greatest population is that of African American households, many of whom are descendants of Tampa Bay’s constructors, and were displaced by the Tropicana Field development.
To venerate the community voice, lead developers David Carlock and Kevin Johnson have assembled the savvy group from St. Pete, and their eyes are on the ball.
Meet Ernie DuBose of Du-Con Construction, LLC (workforce development and inclusion). At a recent presentation, DuBose explained how he went to Sacramento, California to check out a project of similar scope, completed by Kevin Johnson of JMA Ventures.
“They really know their stuff,” DuBose said. “I walked the streets in Sacramento and talked to every type of person. Homeless people, business people, men, women, young, and old. I found that what they were promised was completed.”
DuBose was also impressed by the invitation from Sugar Hill, as he explains, “Black-owned companies usually have to work through other companies. Not here. I was approached and asked not only to come to the table— but to stay for the meal. They really want the underserved and minorities to be represented in every stage of this project.”
Some team highlights:
Askia Mohammad Aquil is a specialist on resident grievances, adamant that these things must never happen again.
Sarah Jane Valelot, a local architect and historian, articulates precisely how Sugar Hill’s plan would impact families and their descendants. “It’s a chance for them to see the city means to honor their history and do the right thing.”
Shawn Wilson of Blue Sky Communities is most knowledgeable about multi-family federal housing programs and how to work with them. In each year of development, one to two phases of affordable housing is projected.
Jordan Behar of Behar and Peteranecz, architect and design specialist, advocates “safe urbanism” and ensures first-phase community enjoyment.
Wendy Griffin of Cushman Wakefield represents their office program. “A lot of people thought the pandemic would take away from any need for office space, but although some prefer to work at home, there is still a need for quality office space,” she explained. “Not everyone likes to work at home, even if that option is available.”
– Sugar Hill champions the needs of the local people, with the expertise and earnestness to do right by them.
– They understand the current needs of St. Petersburg’s eclectic community, and those of their bright-eyed future.
– Their know-how and drive are as impressive as their resumes.
– Honoring a side-tracked historical site and at every stage, reuniting its people is a tumultuous feat; but with a faction as diverse as the Sugar Hill, no matter.
– These are leaders who live and serve within the district with pride and presence.