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Delayed Rays' stadium vote pleases potential Trop developers

ST. PETERSBURG — Though it might sound strange, count the potential developers of Tropicana Field among those satisfied by the Tampa Bay Rays' decision to put off a potential November stadium referendum.

The developers, Archstone and Madison Marquette, say that like local elected leaders and swaths of the city electorate, they worried about the rushed timetable ahead of a possible 2008 vote.

And though the stadium project and the possible Tropicana redevelopment are delayed indefinitely, that's a good thing, says Archstone senior vice president Ken Miller.

"We embrace this postponement," Miller said. "We now see us having more time to work with the (baseball coalition) and the city and the Rays to put this multifaceted potential redevelopment together, and more time to demonstrate the economic benefits it can bring."

Miller said the developers plan to remain part of the stadium and redevelopment discussion, even though city officials are unsure if they will be awarded the redevelopment, or if one will even occur.

City development administrator Rick Mussett said the city has halted negotiations with Archstone-Madison while it awaits the results of the baseball coalition being led by Progress Energy chief executive Jeff Lyash.

It is conceivable but not certain, Mussett said, that the two sides will pick up negotiations where they left off once a stadium site is identified.

"We don't know if there will be a new ballpark, and if there is, where it will be located," Mussett said. "We also don't know if there will still be an opportunity to redevelop the Trop site."

Also unclear is how long finding a stadium solution might take. The more talks drag on, the more likely city officials would reopen competition on any Tropicana Field redevelopment.

A partial redevelopment — with a new stadium on the 86-acre Tropicana site — would also likely mean a new public bidding process, Mussett said.

For their part, Archstone-Madison officials said they would like to be part of either development scenario. In their original proposal, Archstone-Madison contemplated building 1,935 apartments, 755 condominiums and townhomes, 800,000 square feet of office space and at least two hotels totaling 600 rooms. The $1.2-billion development was scheduled to take 10 years to build.

But the developers also said from the start that they'd be willing to alter their project to accommodate the construction of a new stadium at the Tropicana Field site.

"The dynamics of a redevelopment would change," Miller said. "But we can foresee some benefits and some synergies at hand in developing both on one site."

Building a new stadium at the same site obviously would create less space for a mixed-use retail development. But land surrounding a ballpark may be more valuable than land without a ballpark component, Mussett said.

But, he said, "there are so many unknowns right now, that it's probably not a good use of our time, or theirs."

Aaron Sharockman can be reached at asharockman@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2273.

Delayed Rays' stadium vote pleases potential Trop developers 07/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 1:18pm]
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