St. PETERSBURG – The day has come to make a decision.
Today, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welsh is expected to announce his selection of who will redevelop Tropicana Field and the 86 acres on which it sits. From the steps of City Hall, he will settle months of speculation as he gives his first State of the City address and outlines what lies ahead for St. Petersburg.
It’s the latest chapter in a 37-year battle by St. Petersburgers to lure—and more recently keep—a Major League Baseball franchise.
But Welch made it clear that it’s about much more than that. It is finally about doing right by Historically a black gas plant community demolished to make way for a playground. It’s about what happens outside of this stadium.
In turning down bids requested by his predecessor shortly after taking office last year, Welch made it clear he did not think previous bids were sufficient. He said he wants what comes next to provide a place for everyone to live, work, and enjoy the Renaissance City, especially the black residents who haven’t all benefited from that Renaissance.
Bids will be judged on 23 criteria that seek to ensure this outcome, from offering affordable housing to providing opportunities for minority businesses.
“I am looking for the best long-term partnership to achieve goals in (the bidding),” Welch told a reporter on Wednesday.
His grilling attracted four bidders. a Review staff and external consultants They were appointed to judge which bids were most responsive to the mayor’s goals which ranked second above all others.
Among them was the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, who did not bid under former Mayor Rick Chrisman. the team Make an offer Featuring deep-pocketed partners with expertise in building sports arenas. They gave the city the most money and an aggressive schedule that would allow a new football stadium to come online by 2028.
The review teams found that another responding bidder was Sugar Hill Community Partners, led by San Francisco-based JMA Ventures Former NBA star Kevin Johnson. Sugar Hill performed last time and finished in second place. The current bid promises that half of the housing it builds will be affordable and has had the better part of two years Co-opting black leadersincluding Welch.
Two other bidders, Miami 50 Plus 1 Sportsis committed to using minority-owned businesses, and is based in Tampa restoration partnersWith the support of local doctor and philanthropist Kiran Patel, they also aim to get a shot. However, the review teams said they lacked a level of detail or proven financial resources.
Welch’s announcement is just the beginning of a years-long process that will include detailed negotiations, city council votes and public input. It could mark the beginning of a transformative effort to reshape a large swath of downtown and chart some of St. Petersburg’s most haunting history.
The Rays first proposed building a new stadium to replace Trop on the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg 15 years ago. As the ensuing years have shown, the latest effort could be the latest.
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“Getting through Monday is the easy part,” said Brian Capper, the city’s economics and workforce director who is the point of contact for bidders. “Then it is difficult to roll up our sleeves and start negotiations.”
Once Welch makes his announcement, the city enters into negotiations with the developer selected in the terms sheet. Any promises made by the chosen developer in their proposal may not end up in the final plans.
The Terms of Reference is a non-binding document that does not require City Council approval and can be changed. In general, it defines the phases of the project, the value of the land, financial transactions, and parking. It puts real numbers behind the number of residential units, how much office space and how many hotel rooms are guaranteed on site.
“It’s really an idea to put everything on paper, and to understand where both sides are,” said Capper.
The city may bring in legal counsel and advisors to assist with this process. There will be opportunities for community input as well.
According to the city’s timeline, the terms paper with the preferred developer is expected to be completed by May, with a development agreement submitted to the city council by October. But Capper said the development agreement may not be ready until 2024 or longer.
The real power lies with the city council, which controls the city’s money chains. The board could veto a development agreement with Welch’s preferred developer, and that could start the process over.
“Now is the time for the mayor to make a decision,” said City Council President Brandi Gabbard. “The individual votes that come in next, we’ll take them all as they come.”
What about x-rays?
If Welch chooses Rays, which is partnering with a team that includes international real estate investment and development group Hines, the city will seek to secure a new usage agreement with the Rays while compiling the term sheet. This agreement will relate to an area of 17 acres taken from an existing request for proposals for a potential football stadium.
The current usage agreement is in effect through the end of 2027. A new agreement will determine how much financial support will come from the city, county, and private sector for a new baseball stadium. The Rays are expected to commit to playing there during a specific date.
The same would apply if Welch chose Sugar Hill to develop the bulk of the land and the Rays were still interested in playing baseball on the site, Less likely scenario.
The usage agreement requires City Council approval. Once approved, the city and the team will move forward with the development agreement.
“We want to make sure our lot is locked in before we start negotiating everything else,” Capper said. “The last thing we want is for them to have a development agreement of more than 50 acres but leave for Tampa.”
But if the Rays aren’t selected, or decide to leave, the city may put those excluded 17 Acres to another bid request.
The final say of the city council
Next comes the development agreement: a legally binding document that must be approved by the city council. would stipulate specific obligations, Such as how many affordable housing units will be available and at what price, and what the project will be like Paid and transaction terms for the land.
The redevelopment is subject to the city’s community benefits programme. Launched in 2021, the program requires projects that receive a certain amount of city funding or cost more than $10 million to reinvest in the community. Benefits can include building or financing new affordable housing or housing for the workforce, paying into a fund to improve local schools, renovating historic buildings, or providing job training.
That’s what City Councilman Richie Floyd is looking forward to. He pointed out how Plan A Moffitt Cancer Center in St. Petersburg It collapsed because Welch said he did not have enough affordable housing.
He said, “Since I don’t choose who we negotiate with, I focus on the negotiations.”
If the city council rejects the development agreement, the city will go back to the drawing board. Over time, the city may have to issue a new third Request for Proposals—increasing the process fee and delaying resolution.
City Council Vice President Deborah Figgs-Sanders hopes it doesn’t come that far. She said she realizes how much taxpayer money has already been spent on redevelopment efforts without opening a shovel.
She said: “Promises do not feed people.” “We have proven successful.”
State of the City of Saint Petersburg in 2023
Mayor Ken Welsh will highlight his accomplishments since his first year in office, talk about what’s coming in 2023 and is expected to announce his developer of choice for the historic gas plant area redevelopment.
When: 11 am today
Where: City Hall Steps, 175 Fifth Street N.
How to watch: The event is open to the public but will also be broadcast via Facebook Live on the city’s Facebook page.