The future has arrived

On Monday, July 27, the City of St. Petersburg announced a formal request for proposals for the 86-acre Tropicana Field site.

By Mayor Rick Kriseman

ST. PETERSBURG — Following years of community dialogue and planning, the process to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site has begun as the City of St. Petersburg has issued a request for proposals from interested, experienced developers.

As this is publicly-owned land, this is an unparalleled, generational opportunity for us in St. Pete to address many needs, meet many goals, and create a vibrant and unique sense of place accessible to all. We will collaborate with development partners to ensure the site’s history is honored and that economic opportunity and inclusion prevail. Done right, the site will provide jobs, mixed-income housing, family-oriented entertainment, art, and natural recreation. Of the utmost importance, the site will reconnect to its adjacent neighborhoods and provide much-needed green space, capitalizing on the presence of Booker Creek.

Further, the redevelopment of this site will align with our Integrated Sustainability Action Plan, Complete Streets Implementation Plan, Health In All Policies approach and our Grow Smarter economic development strategy, include space for research and innovation, childcare for the site’s residents and employees, hotel and conference space, and seamlessly integrate into our regional transportation network.

Finally, the site will provide community benefits consistent with a Community Benefit Program currently being developed in conjunction with engaged citizens. Such a program will address employment goals, living wages, small business participation, workforce training opportunities, housing affordability, and more.

Our vision statement says: “St. Petersburg will be a city of opportunity where the sun shines on all who come to live, work, and play.” Based on the consistent feedback we’ve received, we recognize that an affordable place to live is a most urgent need in St. Pete. Last year, we unveiled a comprehensive housing affordability plan called ‘Housing For All, From All’. That plan is in motion, but it is imperative that the Tropicana Field site also advances us toward our vision. To that end, the site should provide housing for individuals of various income levels and accommodate families – another need in St. Pete.

We did not arrive at these objectives quickly or easily. They are the product of community conversations that began in 2016. The City of St. Petersburg and HKS Architects incorporated feedback to create and present a preliminary, conceptual master plan to the public, the St. Petersburg City Council, and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017. That plan included a baseball stadium on the site. A second conceptual plan illustrated the site without a stadium. Either scenario can be reflected in the final plan for this site.

More than 40 years ago, the neighborhood where the dome and its surrounding surface parking lots now sit was declared a blight by our city’s council members following mandatory studies. Hundreds of structures were deemed to be dilapidated. Years later, council members voted to modify the redevelopment plans for the area to accommodate the construction of a Major League Baseball stadium and master fire station. As we know, the promise of future jobs and housing never materialized, but distrust and racial tension did. The division this has caused has been further exacerbated by the presence of I-175, which I hope will be razed or shortened someday.

This is our chance to get this site right.

This is our time at bat; our chance to hit the homerun we should have hit a generation ago.

By the time shovels are in the ground and redevelopment occurs, my time as mayor will have long ended. Someday, some mayor, surrounded by council members, community leaders, and developers will begin to open this site to our residents and visitors with much fanfare. A ribbon may be cut on a new academic institution or research center. Families will begin to move into new, affordable townhomes. Pedestrians and cyclists will pass through on the Pinellas Trail, perhaps stopping to observe and enjoy public art. Residents and visitors will come to this new city center to explore, learn about the site’s rich African-American history, or recreate on the creek.

Proposals to redevelop this site are due back to the City of St. Petersburg by January 15, 2021. I am excited to see what the development world comes up with, as I know of no other similar site in the country. I am also excited for St. Pete. This is a challenging time for cities, including St. Pete, but we must continue to make progress, move forward, honor our past, and pursue our brightest future. If anyone can do that, it’s us.

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