ST. PETERSBURG — Tangerine Plaza could soon house a farmers market, or maybe a department store. It could host social service programs, or become the site of affordable housing. It could even get a skating rink.
The future of the problematic city-owned Midtown development is once again being discussed as officials review six different proposals for reinventing the space. It lost its anchor tenant last year when the second grocery store in four years shut its doors for good.
The city put out a request for proposals in May, five months after a consultant's market analysis recommended adding a 20,000 square-foot grocery store to the plaza at 22nd Street and 18th Avenue S.
That's about half the size of the Walmart Neighborhood Market that closed there in 2017 and the Sweetbay Supermarket that shut down in 2013.
City officials presented the six proposals to the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area citizens' advisory committee on Tuesday evening and highlighted the size, cost and job potential of each one.
The mission of the CRA is to revitalize South St. Petersburg by investing in housing, business development, education and workforce development.
The advisory committee, made up of community members, former elected leaders and business and education leaders, seemed intrigued by some projects and far less enthused about the others.
The city spent $2 million to open the shopping center in 2005 for the express purpose of bringing a grocery store to Midtown. The committee seemed most drawn to options that would fulfill that purpose: converting the existing 39,000 square-foot building into a farmers market with a food court and other vendors; two suggestions for building smaller grocery options in the 10,000 to 15,000 square-foot range; or creating a "one-stop shop" for services for low-income residents that would include a member share grocery program.
"Those residents do need access to a grocery store," said committee member Sherry Howard.
Former council member Karl Nurse expanded on that, saying the top three needs in the area are housing, food options and jobs. He also said there are better options for one of the proposals, which called for tearing down Tangerine Plaza and building much-needed affordable housing.
"Maybe we can do multiple projects close to one another," Nurse said. "There are a couple of these that are sort of job, food related that sound potentially viable. And if we could build some housing as well, I think that's a doable thing."
Committee members were less enthusiastic about a proposal for a skate rink. While a few showed support for the idea in general, they agreed it didn't fit the space, nor did it address the needs for a grocery or jobs.
"It is a great proposal for somewhere else outside of Tangerine Plaza," Howard said.
A vague proposal from TCII Capital Group for a grocery store, fitness center, medical offices and other stores left the committee with more questions than answers.
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"I was kind of left scratching my head on this one," said Deborah Figgs-Sanders, with other committee members agreeing.
United Against Poverty put forth a proposal that would bring a host of social service programs to the plaza aimed at helping low-income families, in addition to a member-share grocery program.
Figgs-Sanders, co-chair of the 2020 Taskforce, a collective working on reducing poverty in predominantly black neighborhoods, spoke positively of the mix of social services that would be offered.
"I do like the whole concept," she said. "If that's one of their major goals to reduce the poverty in south St. Pete, then they're in the perfect place to do that."
The committee did not make a recommendation, nor did it rank the proposals. Comments will be sent to Mayor Rick Kriseman, who will make the final decision on the future of Tangerine Plaza.
Contact Caitlin Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.