New Trop development plan: Keep I-175
ST. PETERSBURG — So that idea to raze the Interstate 175 ramp to forge connections between Midtown and a redeveloped Tropicana Field? It’s not going to happen.
HKS Architects, a New York firm hired by St. Petersburg to craft a master plan for the future redevelopment of the Trop’s 85 acres, on Thursday updated City Council members on the status of the plan, which is almost finished.
The biggest change? The interstate stays.
Turns out not many people, or at least those with clout, were happy with the idea of getting rid of the mile-long highway spur that runs to the south of the Trop, said Randy Morton, who is leading the project for HKS. “Architects are at the bottom of the totem pole,” he said.
Mayor Rick Kriseman withheld his opinion when the idea first surfaced in August. At that time, Morton told city officials the interstate’s concrete barriers effectively shut out Midtown from the anticipated benefits of a revitalized Trop district, which could add 9 million square feet of development over the next three decades.
City officials have said they’d like the plan ready within the next month or so. The city and the Tampa Bay Rays paid $420,000 to HKS to develop the plan, which involved several public forums this summer.
Connecting Midtown with the Trop would heal a longstanding racial fault line, Morton said in August. That’s because a black neighborhood — the Gas Plant area — was demolished to make way for the domed stadium in the 1980s.
Another point of discord: So far, the plan to locate affordable housing appears to be concentrated along the Trop’s western boundary on 16th Street S.
That didn’t sit well with City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman. In the updated plan, she still sees the parts of the Trop that border Midtown lacking in the same kinds of entertainment and retail amenities that exist closer to the Edge District and downtown. All that connects Campbell Park to the new Trop site would be a small, zig-zag-like bridge that would be built over I-175.
“That doesn’t make me feel welcome,” she said.
Wheeler-Bowman also asked why affordable housing options appeared to be clustered along 16th Street S. The city’s development administrator, Alan DeLisle, said no final decisions have been made on where to place affordable housing options.
This version of the plan includes development around a new ballpark for the Rays. The team, however, hasn’t made any decision on where it wants to build a new stadium yet or whether that site will be in Hillsborough or Pinellas counties.
HKS said their plan incorporates all of the Rays’ stated objectives.
When DeLisle asked council members for feedback at the end of the committee meeting, City Council member Jim Kennedy said it really didn’t matter what they thought. All that matters is what the Rays think.
“That’s a question more for them than for us,” Kennedy said.