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Will Gas Plant redevelopment provide ownership opportunities?

Mark Parker

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Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League, addresses attendees at Wednesday's "Q&A Luncheon with the Historic Gas Plant Development Team." All photos: Davida Franklin / Tampa Bay Rays.

Thousands of African American residents once proudly owned homes and businesses in St. Petersburg’s Historic Gas Plant District; many now hope a $6.5 billion redevelopment project will provide those same opportunities.

Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League, said community stakeholders have expressed those concerns since they first discussed how city officials could right past wrongs at the site. The ability to own rather than rent space in the 76 acres surrounding a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark was again a prominent topic Wednesday (Dec. 20).

About 120 predominantly Black business owners, professionals and civic leaders gathered at Tropicana Field for a “Q&A Luncheon with the Historic Gas Plant Development Team.” Sankofa Group partners Equity Institute St. Pete, the Urban League, Mt. Zion Human Services, Felton-Howard Law, the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp. and the CDC (Corporation to Develop Communities) of Tampa cohosted the invitation-only event.

“We have to engage those community leaders and stakeholders – business owners, in particular – about the equitable redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant from their viewpoint,” Gaskin-Capehart said. “Because there’s a power in the collective.”

Gaskin-Capehart said the collective has mobilized local equitable economic and social justice leaders for years. She credited the group for helping establish the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and the citizen-led Community Benefits Advisory Council (CBAC).

Gaskin-Capehart believes their combined, intentional efforts can increase equitable opportunities, like ownership, in a reimagined Gas Plant. She said many of the cohosts and attendees have a “deep connection” to what was once a haven for Black residents during the city’s Jim Crow era.

Attendees posed questions and offered their thoughts to city officials and the Rays/Hines development team. Mayor Ken Welch, Rays president Brian Auld and Alex Schapira, a director at Hines, were among those who listened and answered.

“Ownership is a key component to all of this that continues to rise to the top of the conversation and all of these dialogues – and rightfully so,” said Gaskin-Capehart. “That has not changed from the beginning.”

Mayor Ken Welch (left) and Carl Lavender, St. Petersburg’s interim chief equity officer, at the invitation-only event inside Tropicana Field.

The development group has pledged to build 4,800 onsite market rate units and 1,200 workforce and affordable housing units, with half in the redevelopment area. They also plan to create 750,000 square feet of retail space.

The Rays/Hines partnership will purchase 72 acres of prime city-owned land surrounding the ballpark for $105.3 million. Project officials have not publicly discussed selling homes or storefronts, including to displaced property and business owners and their descendants.

Gaskin-Capehart said Gas Plant ownership opportunities are the most consistent request and one that deserves merit. “I don’t think that’s something that’s going to go away,” she added.

Gypsy Gallardo, CEO of Urban Analytics, helped facilitate the meeting. She called it a “phenomenal opportunity” to include additional voices in the planning process.

The question-and-answer segment was also an event highlight for attorney Tamara Felton-Howard, CEO of the Equity Institute. She said stakeholders heard “great things” from Auld regarding the team’s dedication to achieving minority subcontracting and community benefit goals.

Several attendees called the question-and-answer segment an event highlight.

Felton-Howard also appreciated hearing Schapira reaffirm Hines’ commitment to intentional equity efforts. However, Felton-Howard noted that the event “was just the beginning of the conversation.”

While she believes the community is “starting to get comfortable,” Felton-Howard said questions and a “healthy bit of skepticism” remain. As Gallardo noted when she recently resigned from the CBAC, many stakeholders believe city and development officials must address impediments to achieving the project’s equitable economic development goals.

There will be additional opportunities to make voices heard, as the One Community Plan collective is already planning its next meeting. Felton-Howard called Wednesday’s event the “tip of the iceberg.”

“I don’t even think we scratched the surface on concerns and things we could discuss,” she added. “My takeaway is that we just have a lot more work to do to get to where we need to be.”

 

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    RAYMOND TAMPA

    January 8, 2024at10:50 pm

    It is absolutely pathetic that these “by invitation only” meetings keep cropping up under this so-called intentional equity, everybody on the same playing field mayor. Who was at the meeting isn’t nearly as important as who was not in attendance. The same players from year after year pretending to speak for the community. The TRUST factor is diminished more and more as this mayor continues his ridiculousness.

    For those whose may not be aware, it wasn’t too long ago that the intentional equity, everybody on the same playing field mayor intentionally disinvited some major pastors/faith leaders from an invitation only meeting of faith leaders at the St. Petersburg Police Dept.

    How do you spell F A R C E?

  2. Mark A Parker

    Mark A Parker

    December 23, 2023at5:03 pm

    Mrs. Smith Hayes the county will own the roughly 13 acres of stadium property, lease it to the city, who will in turn sublease it to the Rays. The Rays/Hines will own the remaining 76 acres.

  3. Beth D.

    Beth D.

    December 23, 2023at4:51 pm

    According to the Term Sheet, the Rays can wait until 2030 and decide not to build 1,200 below market residential units. The Rays do not pay for the property until they have subdivided and flipped each parcel, at a significant profit. All of the housing will be rental units. County taxes and City property taxes in downtown and midtown will be diverted to pay for the stadium, leaving a big hole for taxpayers to fill. FB Stop the Stadium Subsidy

  4. Avatar

    Alan DeLisle

    December 23, 2023at7:00 am

    Shocked that the community leaders have let this get this far along without specifics. The specifics of the community benefits should have been in the term sheet. We all know the results of vagueness (the enemy of intentional, equitable development). We all know that goals are much different than requirements. All I know is that with Midtown the community benefits were stronger and specific. The Rays/Hines watered this down and the city caved. Watch the words being used and final agreement very carefully.

  5. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    December 22, 2023at7:41 pm

    What City Owned land around the ball park in the Gasplant area is being sold??? We were told that the City would maintain ownership of the Gas plant land. In addition, home ownership and rentals should be considered in this initiative. I resent the ‘Luxury” apartments being there. People that work downtown in the retail shops, restaurants and stores should be able to live there. Folk that work at Walmart, Family Dollar and Dollar General as well as Dollar Tree and the Malls should be able to afford to live there.

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