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City puts out call for Trop redevelopment, wants final plan by Sept. 30

ST. PETERSBURG The city sounded the call Tuesday for urban planners: Deliver a vision of how to transform 85 acres of parking lots and an aging domed stadium into a powerful economic engine for the city.

And do it fast.

The city issued a request for qualifications that has a quick turnaround. Bids for the project must be returned by March 25.

City Council members, according to the schedule, will vote on the final contract by June.

"The sooner the better," said Mayor Rick Kriseman's chief of staff, Kevin King.

A finished plan is due Sept. 30 after a frenzied summer of public meetings and a dream factory production of a future full of jobs, walkable, urban spaces and tempting housing options. It's all intended to be an irresistible lure to keep the Tampa Bay Rays at the Tropicana Field site and attract full partners in development.

Those dates aren't accidents, King said. The city wants its vision in the Rays' hands before the end of the regular season on Oct. 2.

"Based on the Rays' track record, there's typically a window between October and the start of the season," King said.

Alan DeLisle, the city's development administrator, said the compressed time line will work.

"It will be a fluid, flexible process," he said. "We know things will come up, ideas will surface."

A series of public workshops will be scheduled for the summer to solicit ideas for developing the Trop.

After September, the process will slow down. Option B in the city's request for qualifications asks for a plan that develops the Trop without a stadium.

"We don't really have a timetable for the 'without' plan," King said.

Once companies respond, a seven-person review panel of city staffers and residents will winnow the field to three finalists, much like the Pier process.

The City Council then has to approve the choice.

Some city priorities:

• The city wants to explore a "small-to-medium" convention center and hotel on the site. Proposals to put a hotel and conference center near Al Lang Stadium during the recent waterfront master plan were pulled amid resident uproar.

• An "employment center" would be designed to attract jobs in the marine and life sciences, specialized manufacturing, financial services, data analytics, and the creative arts and design fields, but not limited to those areas.

• "Workforce" housing is sought. Basically, housing that "policemen, firemen, middle-income earners" can afford, DeLisle said, adding it's a Kriseman priority to build more such housing.

King said the quick turnaround for proposals won't deter firms looking to put their mark on a big urban redevelopment project.

"There will be some excitement over this," he said.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

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