Turning Tropicana orange into environmental green
The pictures are pretty, and the talk seems serious enough. LEED-certified. Bioswales. Solar power generation. But how “green” are the proposals to redevelop Tropicana Field? Here’s a look at the ideas of three developers wanting to purchase the 86-acre site, with some commentary from St. Petersburg environmental lawyer Thomas Reese.

BY AARON SHAROCKMAN and JOHN CORBITT | of the Times staff

WILLIAMS QUARTER

1. All three proposals enhance Booker Creek, a channelized drainage ditch that now passes just east of Tropicana Field. The creek, which is part of the city’s stormwater management system, begins near 13th Avenue N and 22nd Street at Booker Creek Park, and runs south and east before exiting into Tampa Bay near Bayboro Harbor. The area’s Agency on Bay Management suggested the city return the creek to its natural state during the original development of Tropicana Field. But hoping to create as many parking spaces as possible, the city did not.

2. The centerpiece of the Williams Quarter plan is Williams Square, a park toward the east end of the Tropicana site. Pictured is a drawing of the main fountain.

3. Developers hope to one day connect the site to the existing CSX railroad line as part of a light-rail system to downtown St. Petersburg.

4. Buildings in all three proposals would be LEED-certified. LEED, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.


HINES

1. Hines’ proposal includes roof-mounted solar panels. Grants are available, in some cases, to pay for up to half of the work, Reese says.

2. Developers want to add bioswales along Booker Creek to treat stormwater runoff from the site. Bioswales are landscape elements that are designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water before it enters the city’s stormwater system.

3. A shared vehicle service is envisioned for the southeast corner of the site. Available in most larger cities, shared cars are available by the hour for people running errands or for any reason, really.

4. The Hines proposal includes a bike trail along the creek and a bike rental kiosk, but it might not actually reduce the pollution created now by Tropicana Field, says Reese. “If the dome was real active and full, the redevelopments would reduce pollution quite a bit,” he says. “But given all the time it’s really vacant ... the pollution created by the site may be more. It would have to be analyzed, but I wouldn’t conclude that because there’s more green or open space that you’re going to have a ‘greener’ site.”


ARCHSTONE-MADISON

1. Like Hines, Archstone-Madison wants to use a weir to create a small pond at the southern end of the Tropicana site.

2. During the original development of Tropicana Field, workers found groundwater and soil that had been contaminated by an old municipal gas manufacturing plant. The city spent $6.4-million excavating the toxic dirt. As part of an agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, crews continue to monitor the site. In their proposals, both Hines and Archstone-Madison say that if there are further environmental problems, the city would be responsible for the clean-up. “I would think the monitoring around that area would tend to show problems in that area,” Reese says. “But it’s really difficult to say without extensive work.

3. Archstone-Madison wants to build what it calls an Ecoseum – a museum that provides education about the environment and ecology – at the north end of the site. The developer also wants to introduce a crane habitat in an area inaccessible to the public.

4. Hybrid vehicle “charging” stations are contemplated for the parking garages associated with the project. Overall, Archstone-Madison proposes 10,088 parking spaces.

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