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Welch restarts bidding process for Trop site redevelopment

Veronica Brezina

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Tropicana Field. Google Earth.

When St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch took office, he said he would re-evaluate the proposals from groups vying to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site, and after consideration, he is hitting the restart button. 

“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.”

This week was the deadline Welch gave himself to determine the future of the Trop. Many media members and the public expected Welch to select either Midtown Development or Sugar Hill Community Partners’ proposals as they were the two finalists Welch was initially considering. While former Mayor Rick Kriseman selected Midtown Development before exiting office, he said the final decision would ultimately be in Welch’s hands.  

All of the submitted proposals must include a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. Meanwhile, Welch’s other “new conditions to be considered” are:

  • The pandemic has changed the way we work, and has affected the potential need for office space.
  • The cost of rental housing and home ownership has skyrocketed, bringing higher priority to the need for affordable and workforce housing.
  • Supply chain and labor issues are affecting the cost of capital projects.
  • The need for intentional equity and equitable development is highlighted by the results of the city’s Disparity Study and Structural Racism Report completed after the issuance of the original RFP.
  • The community’s desire for equity is reflected in the Community Benefits model adopted by the St. Petersburg City Council last year.
  • The city is still drafting the refreshed request for proposals, which will be out on the street in August. 

RELATED: Rays discussion ‘going really well,’ Welch says


The refreshed RFP will open the floor to any group, including the Tampa Bay Rays if they desired to have skin in the game for the overall redevelopment. 

The decision comes after Welch traveled to Sacramento to see what the Sugar Hill Partners and JMA team has done, and also went to Midtown’s development in Miami.  

He has previously stressed the importance of affordable housing, embracing economic development on an equal playing field, and the need to acknowledge the history of the Gas Plant neighborhood. 

Welch has personal ties to the Gas Plant neighborhood that suffered its demise with the rise of the Tropicana Field stadium decades ago. 

“I’m a huge Rays fan, and I have a personal connection to the Gas Plant. My grandfather’s business and his church were there. That community has been uprooted twice with the promise made to the community that a baseball stadium would bring jobs and economic development. It’s 86 acres of asphalt. We have an opportunity to fulfill those promises,” Welch previously said earlier this month during the CREW Tampa Bay 2022 Economic Summit event in Tampa. 

“The Rays are important, but they are secondary to that. Having said that, absolutely the Rays need to stay here,” he said. 

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Stephanie

    June 29, 2022at10:06 am

    We’re handing over our future to the Rays. Got it. Let’s sacrifice the citizen’s taxpayer dollars, time and lack of housing to a baseball team no one cares about. The Rays have been doing this with Tampa Bay for 10 years. Why is now different.

    This is a sad day for St. Petersburg.

  2. Avatar

    Janicah

    June 29, 2022at10:17 am

    We had covid and housing prices change. Guess what? Now we’ll have a recession and unemployment and housing prices will still change. Things will keep changing. Nothing will be developed and the tumbleweeds roll.

    A sellout to the Rays.

  3. Avatar

    Ray

    June 29, 2022at1:47 pm

    Way to Rays Up Mayor Welch. Keep the 🌞 shine city Burg momentum rising.

  4. John Avery

    John Avery

    June 29, 2022at3:33 pm

    I like the Mayor but this is a moving forward “decision” that is not a decision. The ever popular “kick the can down the road.” What was hyped as a major announcement is instead a major disappointment. Two years and big bucks wasted on nothing.

  5. Avatar

    monah

    June 29, 2022at4:01 pm

    Bravo, Mayor Welch! I am so glad we have a mayor who has real insight into our future needs and strives to provide opportunity for everyone.

  6. Avatar

    John Donovan

    June 29, 2022at4:49 pm

    A project of this size is never built all at once. More like 10 or 15 years to completion, depending on the economy. And change is likely and expected. Reopening the process puts all new developers on notice that the situation in St Petersburg is volatile. This implicitly raises cost as trust will be low. What doesn’t change is that developers and various constituencies want the benefits and contracts (money). Follow the money, and the different names and organizations with their hands out.

  7. Avatar

    HAL FREEDMAN

    June 30, 2022at12:06 am

    I have no problem with the Mayor’s starting over with a new RFP. I have a lot of problems with the RFP including a “must-have” stadium. To spend 10 cents of taxpayer money, on a “factory” for a private, for-profit company, is just wrong. Baseball is a dying sport, and a team that can’t draw flies to most home games is a losing proposition. Two preferable solutions: 1) let the clock run out, and wait until 2027 to develop the Trop site…the Rays get no split of development proceeds; 2) Let the Rays go where they want, when they want, in exchange for giving up their development rights.

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