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Welch scraps Moffitt’s plans for St. Pete

Veronica Brezina

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A rendering of Moffitt's planned campus in St. Petersburg. All renderings are conceptual and were presented during the first CBA program meeting. Images: City of St. Petersburg records and Moffitt Cancer Center

Plans for a state-of-the-art cancer center and residential complex are now scrapped due to a lack of affordable housing units. 

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch has rejected Moffitt Cancer Center (and partners’) $5 million offer and proposal for the 4.59-acre site at 800 1st Ave. S. in downtown St. Pete. The proposal was for a 75,000-square-foot cancer center that would be three stories, alongside a 30-story residential tower with limited affordable housing units, a potential 14-story hotel and a parking garage. 

“I appreciate the TPA/Moffitt team’s work to increase the level of community benefits within their proposal. However, our city faces continued challenges with affordable and workforce housing access, and community consensus is clear on the priority of housing as a component of equitable economic development,” Welch announced today. 

Welch wanted 30% of the units to be workforce housing out of 400 units; however, Moffitt and its team initially proposed 10% affordable housing, which was negotiated to 15% and ultimately 17.5%.

Welch’s negotiations with the Atlanta-based TPA Group and Moffitt resulted in a final proposal of 400 total residential units, with 70 affordable and workforce housing units, half reserved for those earning at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) and half for those earning at or below 120% AMI, which was below the threshold Welch was seeking. 

“We must ensure we are strategically and equitably utilizing city assets to respond to community needs. This decision reflects my administration’s intentionality on the issue of equitable economic development,” Welch said. 

The decision follows the Community Benefits Agreement (CBAC) Advisory Committee decision last week recommending that the project should move forward after representatives from Moffitt, the TPA Group and UPC Insurance shared the tweaked plans with the committee.    

When the team went before the CBA Advisory Committee, its latest plans showed it had bumped up the proposed workforce housing units from 57 to 70 in the 375-unit tower (now a 400-unit tower), with 18 units designated for those earning 80% of the AMI and 52 units for those earning 120% of the AMI.

Renderings of Moffitt’s planned campus in St. Petersburg.  

The 70 affordable workforce housing units would provide $1.4 million in annual rent savings, or $19 million over the first 13 years of the project, according to a presentation slide during the advisory meeting. 

TPA said it would waive apartment application and administration fees for Pinellas County school teachers and first responders.

Although the advisory committee ultimately recommended that the project move forward, the limited workforce housing was a point of concern from the committee. The group previously also voiced concerned regarding Moffitt’s $5 million offer for purchasing the site, which is significantly below the site’s appraised market value of $24 million. 

“This was a strategic decision based on community benefit, shared priorities, and the significant value of the subject city land. The proposed project included many attractive components, including access to a 75,000 square-foot cancer center,” Welch said. “While we welcome the addition of this facility and hoped we could successfully negotiate this plan to meet our community benefit goals, negotiations did not meet needed affordable housing. We hope future opportunities can be identified to further plans for such a center in our city.”

In response to the mayor’s decision, Moffitt said it “looks forward to exploring opportunities to serve our patients in Pinellas County. Making cancer care accessible to as many patients as possible is crucial to Moffitt’s mission of preventing and curing cancer and we welcome the continued dialogue necessary to make this a reality.” 

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Drew Gunnar

    August 12, 2022at3:06 pm

    This is so disappointing… I understand the need for workforce housing but the city should be doing more than turning down development, especially something like this as their answer or solution. These projects often grant cash to the city that they could use for developments in the proper way to contribute to workforce housing. This makes me very disappointed in Welch and I don’t think he will lead St. Petersburg into the future the way we need to be lead. First the Trop site now this…

  2. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    August 12, 2022at3:06 pm

    30% affordable?! Take another hit, Mayor.
    Someone please sit down with the mayor and explain how a pro-forma works.

  3. Avatar

    Georgia Earp

    August 12, 2022at3:12 pm

    Thank you, Mayor Welch for making affordable housing a priority! One luxury condo or apartment building after another have been built in Saint Pete while rents are skyrocketing.Thank you got considering the 90%!

  4. Avatar

    steve sullivan

    August 12, 2022at3:35 pm

    He doesn’t need instructions on how a performa works from you or anyone else. His family’s business is accounting (his father was an accountant and councilman) and he worked for Florida Power and Light (FP&L) for over a decade. You should educate yourself about your local government leader’s before speaking. They can certainly do 30% easily, they are trying to do some accounting trickery to justify a $5mm purchase price for a piece of land valued at $24mm land, by projecting an alleged $1.4mm annual($19mm over 13yrs) rent saving, equaling = the exact $24mm, land value.

  5. Avatar

    Page Obenshain

    August 12, 2022at4:02 pm

    I am all for a Moffitt location in St. Petersburg and located where all people can have easy access. The proposed location is on bus routes, easy to drive, or some may be able to walk. I have driven over the bridge hundreds of times and was looking forward to going to a local location. Mr. Mayor, you should rethink your position.

  6. Avatar

    Tony G

    August 12, 2022at4:14 pm

    Wow sad decision! That would have been a big game changer for dtsp and patients that are affected by this! Very disappointing in this administration. 🤷🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️

  7. Avatar

    Steve

    August 12, 2022at4:20 pm

    Who got to you Mayor? Terrible decision. For us older cancer patients, this is a welcome addition to St Pete. Don’t lose track of your demographics.

  8. Avatar

    Roy Jones

    August 12, 2022at4:42 pm

    Keep negotiating.

  9. Avatar

    John Donovan

    August 12, 2022at5:09 pm

    So the result so far is: Zero new workforce housing. Zero new state-of-the-art cancer treatment center. Zero new additional property taxes to be paid. Zero new jobs. Do I have that right? Congratulations Mayor?? I see zero accomplishments.

  10. Avatar

    Peter

    August 12, 2022at8:15 pm

    This was simply one bad decision based on emotions. The long term impact of a Moffitt Cancer Center in St. Petersburg (think employment) outweigh the short term thinking of our mayor. Bad decision!!

  11. Avatar

    Alan DeLisle

    August 13, 2022at6:44 am

    So sorry to hear this for St Pete. We had worked so hard to deliver this for St Pete and the current and future cancer patients and their families, not to mention the tremendous economic value to the Innovation District and direct, indirect and spin off clinical care and research jobs that would pay for a lot of affordable housing. Public private partnerships are difficult but the magic is in the cumulative value to the community not one specific item, which of course we had addressed and we implemented the first CBA policy in the state. I hope the Council does something and the Mayor reconsiders on behalf of the city. Loving St Pete always.

  12. Avatar

    ANDRE BALASH

    August 13, 2022at10:23 am

    Dear Mr. Mayor,
    We should put this decision to the public. We should vote on this plan.
    This would be the real democracy in St. Petersburg.
    This is not a one man’s decision.
    I think, 90% of St. Petersburg would vote for Moffit Cancer Center,
    because it is progress in the right direction.
    Mr. Mayor, please reconsider your decision.
    Moffitt Center would be a real asset to the City of St. Petersburg.
    Actually, WE NEED THE MOFFITT CANCER CENTER here in St. Petersburg.

    Andre Balash
    St. Petersburg

  13. Avatar

    Rita Sewell

    August 13, 2022at10:57 am

    There is currently cancer care here is St Petersburg. Moffitt is cutting edge but not the only game in town. We are learning that many forms of cancer are preventable and that data is available for all on PubMed. In the meantime I did not understand this whole project. Healthcare workers are in need of affordable housing no matter where they work and with several hospitals in the downtown area perhaps a partnership to provide affordable housing to nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists dietary and housekeeping staff should be considered. Moffitt could offer its excellent services in the community within the existing structures if healthcare was not such a profit driven business. Hotels and high-rises are not what health care should be focused on. More prevention and more livable communities for all.

  14. Avatar

    steve sullivan

    August 13, 2022at1:05 pm

    Alan DeLisle, there is no cumulative value to the “whole” community if there is no equity in city assets. Moffitt is a private business and in consideration for more affordable housing the city was willing to take a significant hit to the purchase price. If Moffitt had such good intentions they could have offered to pay full price for the land and paid into the housing fund. But no, they were looking for a handout during a housing crisis. It baffles me that you wouldn’t build 400 units of workforce and affordable housing for safety, medical and service workers for the lower purchase price. Remeber the lower purchase price is actually subsidizing the rent so Moffitt and it’s partners are not giving anything away. With the perspective you are expressing here I am glad you are no longer in your position with the city. You should have pushed more proactive housing development policies before we ever got to this crisis. Keep in mind this city and county are built out and has been for decades. There are no other opportunities for housing development in the city for large projects but for city owned parcels unless, you want to gentrify the southside and you know that would be a problem. The Burg will forever change and become a dead town center with residential high priced condo’s and high priced restuarants with high worker turnover thanks to you and the prior administration whom I actually supported till now.

  15. Avatar

    Laurel

    August 13, 2022at2:15 pm

    I can not believe that our Mayor Ken Welch would turn down much needed cancer healthcare access for the St Petersburg community. I am very disappointed in this decision. I am now very sorry I voted for Ken Welch. I will not make this mistake again. Thumbs down!

  16. Avatar

    Atle Moe

    August 13, 2022at3:38 pm

    Stopping the Moffitt build out was a bad decision by the mayor. Moffitt would bring technology as well as good paying jobs that would offer long term benefits to the City. How could that be bad?

  17. Avatar

    Mike C

    August 13, 2022at3:54 pm

    Wow, really short sighted decision. Folks, were on track to make SP a bedroom community for Tampa and snow birds. SP desperately needs more than restaurants, condos, and apartments…. What about. business? technology, banking, cyber, medical, AND cancer research, etc? Mayor you’re focusing on a shiny object rather than the whole of the community. Please reconsider….

  18. Avatar

    Tony D K

    August 13, 2022at5:40 pm

    Good decision by the Mayor.
    Pay $5.00 million for something that is worth $24.0 million? Don’t need a cash flow analysis to know that it was bad decision especially when it does not serve today’s community goals or needs.
    Tony

  19. Avatar

    Darden Rice

    August 16, 2022at1:44 pm

    We can’t just build our way out of the affordable housing crisis. The other side of the equation is also good paying jobs, which a state-of-the-art cancer center would certainly provide and attract similar/complementary job sectors. I hope they get back to the table on this. Former Mayor Bob Buckhorn did not waste a minute to tweet this news story and add in a hearty welcome to Moffitt to Tampa’s downtown core.

  20. Avatar

    steve sullivan

    August 16, 2022at8:41 pm

    Darden Rice you had eight years on the council to address housing and you can’t point to any initiative that you brought forth in that area. This is the peoples asset not an exclusive club. It’s funny how you want to talk about good paying jobs when the staff who would work at this facility could not afford to live on the residential site. Someone has to service those businesses downtown allow them to walk to work since transportation is a big chunk of one’s income. The mayor asked for 30% workforce not 100%. Glad you didn’t get elected. You have kept the status quo going for years. All these years and your legacy is a hodgepodge of zoning that doesn’t make any sense. a 150ft height zoned parcel in an historic overlay neighborhood of single family homes is your legacy. If Moffitt wanted to go to downtown Tampa they would have but they can’t afford to hence, city owned property in St. Pete. There is a trade-off, no more business as usual. What good id a higher wage when you are priced out of the housing market there is no more land!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Dick Pierce

    Dick Pierce

    August 17, 2022at3:57 pm

    My conclusions from reading Mayor Welch’s comments on the Moffit Proposal are:
    -He has 30% in his mind as the “fair %” for Affordable Housing” in St Petersberg
    -He understands that “Affordable” [<80% AMI] is a different category than
    “Workforce” [80-120% AMI] Housing,
    -He is stating that Low-Income [<80%] Affordable Housing is a key priority and that
    30% is a key percentage for the Mayor, and that he is serious about communicating
    this message to Developers, City Staffs, City Boards/Committees, City Council,
    NGO’s, and to the general public.
    -To me, he is also sending a message that consideration of Affordable Housing at
    30% [or more] should be included as a part of every City Plan, RFP, proposal, and
    set of evaluation criteria – for every project, anywhere in the City that involves rental
    housing [as well as same for home ownership and condos].

    A sincere thank you to Mayor Welch for his aggressive attention to Affordable Housing
    as a key issue, for making good on his campaign statements of “Affordable Housing for
    All”, and for his focus/promise to those who are already SP residents, with emphasis on
    those below 80% AMI.

    [RHP Ed.: Low-Income, below 80% AMI: that’s 24,000 [53%] of SP’s 43,000 renters,
    who represent almost 60% of SP’s severely-burdened residents [pay more that 50% of
    income for housing]. Further, over 60% of the 24,000 Low-Income rental households
    earn less than 50% AMI, and almost 60% or 12,000 of these are severely burdened.
    They face a deficit of units of 8-11,000 affordable units. The Mayor is focused on where
    the problem is – a problem that will require attention by developers, assistance of all
    kinds/sources to these developers, and significant financial assistance to the lowest
    income renters.]

  22. Avatar

    Carol Tim

    August 18, 2022at5:52 am

    As a cancer patient I was thrilled to see that Moffitt may be coming to my City, and I could be making a shorter drive for my treatments. I hope there is still a window of opportunity to make it happen here in St. Petersburg.

  23. Avatar

    J PETERS

    August 21, 2022at1:55 pm

    Terrible decision by the Mayor. I guess I will funding against this mayor.

  24. Avatar

    Michael Colucci

    August 25, 2022at10:13 am

    It would be good to have Moffitt here, but DTSP? Do we want to become “Cancertown” or was it some other image we are after? Housing is up to supply and demand. It will work out.

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