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Welch to revisit plans to redevelop Tropicana Field with focus on affordable housing

Veronica Brezina

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St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch . File photo.

Newly-elected St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is viewing the city’s future through an equity lens, and wants to make affordable housing a key priority for the 86-acre redevelopment of Tropicana Field. 

“I’ve been engaged in this whole process to the selection of the master developer … I really think the Kriseman administration did a great job in developing the RFP, it focused on those 21 points and equity was quo to that,” Welch said during the January 2022 Economic Equity Policy Dialogue virtual event. 

He noted how equity was a vital component in the RFP as it included necessary principles from hiring minorities to work on the development, to how the development will pay tribute to the historical Gas Plant neighborhood that once stood on the site.

Previous mayor Rick Kriseman ultimately narrowed down the list of potential developers to two, Midtown and Sugar Hill. In December, Kriseman announced he had selected the Midtown Development team as the master developer. 

“I want to push harder on the master developer that I select to make sure they make a significant investment in the community,” Welch said. “You’re talking about billions of dollars over the decades that will come through there. I’m not looking for a symbolic notion toward checking a box for equity. I want something to be built in, substantial and generational as well.” 

Midtown Development’s pitch calls for new office space, a hotel, retail development, an expanded Booker Creek and a 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. 

During a meeting with the cabinet, Welch said, he asked Joe Zeoli, interim city development administrator, to bring him a summary of the top two master developer candidates to “understand exactly what Mayor Kriseman looked at.” 

“They [proposals] are both very strong, but I want to see more in terms of truly affordable housing. I think we can set the bar higher,” Welch said. “I’m seeing developments where they are bragging about 10% workforce housing. We need to be aiming higher because in our community when 50% of the people make less than $24 an hour and you see so much luxury and market-rate housing going in, we are entering a path of re-gentrification.” 

The next step is to create a term sheet with the selected developer and then form a development agreement, which will go before the city council. 

A timeline for the process was not disclosed. 

The January 2022 Economic Equity Policy Dialogue event was created by The Equity Institute of St. Petersburg (by The 2020 Plan Inc.), St. Petersburg Branch NAACP, Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Georgia Earp

    January 12, 2022at4:17 pm

    I am glad that Mayor Welch is reevaluating the portion of affordable housing in the Tropicana Site. 1,000 units out of 6,000 to 8,000 is 12.5 to 16.7%. That is paltry considering that St Petersburg has an abundance of luxury apartments and condos, with more coming.

  2. Avatar

    Elizabeth B Bradford

    January 13, 2022at7:01 am

    I agree, Georgia. There are more folks in dire need of housing than the 1000+ units being slated for contstruction. It pains me greatly to see folks being priced out of a community they’ve lived in for decades! The gentrification of downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a horror show for average folks and its shameful. I hope Mr. Welch holds up his end of the “bargain”. This city NEEDS affordable housing more than it needs more $3K/month apartments!!

  3. Avatar

    Charlie Guy

    February 11, 2022at12:08 pm

    We who support the THE Deuces Live salute Mayor Welch’s desire for a dramatic increase in attainable housing opportunites for Southside St Pete’s historically excluded community!! He can now leverage his business background by examining many of the past, currently pending, and/or proposed planning opportunites including their planning methods/strategies. His announced strategy of reexamining the final submission for the repurposing of Tropicana Field does clearly demonstrate his wisdom and courage.

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