Hurried pace of Midtown development raises concerns

BY LORIEN MATTIACCI, Neighborhood News Bureau

ST. PETERSBURG — Midtown may soon have a new industrial, retail and residential development in the St. Petersburg Commerce Park Plot, but community members worry about the rushed pace of the approval process.

The Community Action Committee (CAC) did not have adequate time to review a proposal from EMP Industries before the city moved it forward, according to Maria Scruggs, president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP. The CAC evaluates development proposals, determines their impact on the community and makes recommendations to the city.

The city council approved the lots for clearance in 2007 as a part of the Dome Industrial District. The RFP went out three months before all bids were due on August 7, 2015, eight years after the clearance, according to the city’s Request for Proposal form.

Karl Nurse, District 6 city council member, provided a reason for the rushed pace of the process. “The city is on its knees begging for a business to come in before we lose a $2.2 million HUD grant to create jobs.”

Despite the shortened CAC approval process, EMP Industries can still qualify for taxpayer-funded incentives and special financing packages, according to Nurse and Alan DeLisle, a city development administrator.

To date, EMP Industries has applied for no tax-funded incentives.

Tom Callahan, representing EMP Industries, and Mario Farias, president of Farias Consulting Group, presented their plan for developing St. Petersburg Commerce Park to about 20 community members and local leaders at the Carter G. Woodson Museum Mon., Nov. 16. The plan includes a mix of retail, residential and manufacturing.

“We tried to keep in mind the vision of what 22nd Street is, was, and should be,” Farias said.

They estimate that their proposed development could create 45 to 75 new jobs. The potential jobs could pay from $12 to $17 an hour for low skill labor. Salaried management positions could pay between $38,000 and $60,000 per year.

The RFP requires that the bid winner hire 50 percent of its workforce from the surrounding community, according to Callahan, but neither he nor Farias knew of any other mandates from the RFP.

Terri Lipsey Scott, chair of the board for the Woodson Museum, asked Callahan and Farias to return at a later date to further discuss the plan and give more community members the opportunity to attend. Callahan and Farias agreed, but declined to set a date at this time.

Lorien Mattiacci is a reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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