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Welch questions prospective Trop site developers on plans for housing and more

Veronica Brezina

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Tropicana Field
Tropicana Field. File photo.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is taking a deeper dive into the proposals for the redevelopment of the 86-acre Tropicana Field site. 

This month, Welch submitted 15 additional questions to the Miami-based Midtown Development team and Sugar Hill Community Partners group. The new questions focus on hot topics ranging from affordable housing, equity and the future of the Tampa Bay Rays to the potential impact on the interstate system. 

During the January 2022 Economic Equity Policy Dialogue virtual event, Welch previously stated he acknowledged former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s selection of moving forward with the Midtown Development team as the master developer over the Sugar Hill team; however, Welch said he wanted to go back to the drawing board to further analyze the visions from the two prospective master developers. 

At the time, Welch emphasized the importance of affordable housing and equity inclusion for the redevelopment of the Trop. 

In a memo sent to City Council Administrative Officer Cindy Sheppard in late March, Welch stated he planned to submit additional questions to the potential developers after he met with St. Petersburg Council Chair Gina Driscoll. 

“As part of the process, I’m submitting the following questions to the Midtown and Sugar Hill groups, in order to have a more current understanding of their proposals, given developments since their initial RFP [request for proposals] responses,” he wrote, indicating he intended to send the questions to the developers on April 1 and that the council could review them.

Midtown Development’s initial pitch calls for new office space, a hotel, retail development, an expanded Booker Creek and designated areas for artists. There would be 6,000-8,000 residential units for the project, including more than 1,000 affordable/attainable housing units. 

The current plan totals an investment ranging from $2.7 to $3.8 billion and can take place regardless of whether the Tampa Bay Rays remain in St. Petersburg. 

In an exclusive interview with the St. Pete Catalyst, Midtown said it was proposing to demolish part of the adjacent interstate highway to better connect its envisioned Creekside development for the Trop property.  

Under Sugar Hill’s submitted $3.1 billion plan, which includes $836.8 million in public funding, the group initially planned to build a hotel with more than 400 rooms, and a 1 million-square-foot convention center, which is an asset that St. Pete doesn’t have, and adding green space and housing.

These are the following 15 additional questions submitted by Welch. The developers must submit the responses by April 20th. The questions have been edited for clarity:

  1. Describe the approach you will take to maximizing the development of affordable and workforce housing in the plan. What are the maximum ratios and the number of units that you will develop for 60% Area Median Income (AMI), 80% AMI, 120% AMI and market-rate units? If this is unchanged from your original RFP response projection, please restate the original projection.
  2. Are homeownership units included in your plan? If so, how many and via what vehicle or partnership?
  3. Are there impacts from Covid, or other factors, that impact your projection for the recommended type and amount of office space in your proposal?
  4. Are there impacts from Covid, or other factors, that impact the proposed size of meeting and/or convention center space in your proposal?
  5. Do you anticipate supply chain, fuel, labor or other current trending economic factors to have a material impact on your proposal’s timeline and/or cost?
  6. Given the overall length of this development, describe your phasing approach. Provide details on the composition of phase one and a timeline of milestones you might expect to see each year from 2022 to 2026.
  7. What is the status of your dialogue with the Tampa Bay Rays? How will you phase in development until such time as the decision is made on the location of the next Rays ballpark?
  8. Will the project require a special exception or variances?
  9. Are you familiar with the city’s Disparity Study? If so, how will the results impact your project?
  10. Are you familiar with the city’s Community Benefits Agreement? If so, how will the CBA impact the project?
  11. What are your best ideas for honoring the history of the Gas Plant community in an impactful and sustainable way?
  12. What is the plan for incorporating a multimodal transit station that can connect various modes of transit to the site?
  13. What opportunities will there be for small businesses (specifically minority and women-owned) to operate affordable storefronts or workspaces within the development?
  14. Do you have any plan to integrate land potentially vacated by the removal of Interstate I-175?
  15. Please provide specific examples of how you will address long-term sustainability and resiliency in the project. In addition, how will you utilize and enhance Booker Creek in the overall development?

The January 2022 Economic Equity Policy Dialogue event, which is where Welch discussed equity issues and opportunities including the impact of the Trop site redevelopment, was created by The Equity Institute of St. Petersburg (by The 2020 Plan Inc.), St. Petersburg Branch NAACPFoundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Natalie Stockard

    April 7, 2022at11:39 am

    My recollection is that one of the reasons the previous mayor chose the developer he did was that their plan included a company coming in with good paying jobs. Existing jobs not just space for other people to maybe open a business. Please do not lose sight of this.

  2. Avatar

    Gina Stanzione

    April 7, 2022at9:36 pm

    I was in Miami for work last week, and I had to spend time in Midtown Miami. I was surprised, it is a nice neighborhood with tons of people walking to work, cute local shops, and residents running errands and walking their dogs.

  3. Avatar

    Penny J

    April 7, 2022at9:50 pm

    Whatever happens, let this not be awarded to Sugar Hill – a bunch of local groups that cannot execute small-scale projects, let alone the redevelopment of the Trop. SMH. Someone had to say it.

  4. Avatar

    Rose Hayes

    April 7, 2022at10:16 pm

    The questions are good and thoughtful. I would love to see the responses.

  5. Avatar

    Donna Sayers

    April 7, 2022at11:59 pm

    Mayor Welch is asking great questions to benefit the residents and future of our city! Whatever happens, do not change the culture of our south side. We need to maintain our city’s diversity and not gentrify.
    I truly hope removing 175 remains in the plan for redevelopment. Changing MLK and 8th street from one way to two way would be a welcomed change and reduce traffic. I currently live on 8th St south and cars move very quickly on that street.

  6. Avatar

    monah

    April 8, 2022at12:07 pm

    Finally, a mayor thinking outside the elitist bubble!

  7. Avatar

    Georgia Masters

    April 9, 2022at11:41 am

    Amen, Donna Sayers!

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