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 a virtual discussion on equity Tuesday.
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.