ST. PETERSBURG — When city officials began soliciting bids last summer for the Tropicana Field project, they imagined developers would submit detailed and comprehensive visions for the entire 86-acre parcel, hitting all the points the city laid out in its request.
Seven companies did that. St. Petersburg officials will create a short list from those proposals, and the mayor will ultimately pick a developer and concept. The whole process could take a year.
But two other developers submitted bids that didn’t make the cut and were dismissed out of hand.
“They did not answer the questions in the (request for proposals) and they just didn’t go into any real detail on the questions... and the principles that were laid out,” said Alan DeLisle, the city’s development administrator.
Compared to the other seven proposals — some of which mentioned scores of potential partners, included vibrant images and ran as long as 243 pages — those two were fairly bare-bones.
One came from Atlanta firms Pope and Land Real Estate and HGOR, whose past projects include the Battery Atlanta — the entertainment district anchored by the Atlanta Braves’ home stadium — as well as the redevelopment of North Carolina’s Charlotte Coliseum into a 155-acre mixed-use community.
At 24 pages, the proposal was the shortest one submitted, and city officials said it was submitted late, though that’s not why it was disqualified from consideration. The proposal did not address the city’s questions or include any visual renderings of the project. In the executive summary, Pope and Land senior managing partner H. Mason Zimmerman wrote that it would be “misleading” to set “unrealistic expectations” that could “create a potential liability with the community at large.”
”We acknowledge that the response in this current delivery falls short of a full response to all of the questions posed by the RFP,” the firms stated. “However, our experience has informed us that it is best to listen and react to community input and market factors prior to casting the overall vision or prepare the important specifics of a project.”
Zimmerman cited the uncertainty that surrounds the Tampa Bay Rays’ future, a concern echoed by City Council members and others in the community. The team is locked into playing home games at the Trop through 2027, and during that period can have influence over what can get built on the site. After that, the Rays’ fate in St. Petersburg remains unresolved.
“Given the unique constraints the existing lease poses to both the timing of and layout of the project, we believe that the establishment of Development Priorities will be necessary to guide decisions during the build out of the project,” he wrote.
DeLisle dismissed the lease concerns, noting seven other developers were able to envision the project despite the uncertainly: “There’s always a lot of hurdles to development projects, but on this one, we needed more, and they didn’t provide it.”
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After the proposal was rejected, Zimmerman in an email said the team was “disappointed about the outcome” and that they “have no regrets about the pursuit.”
The other rejected proposal came from Ohio company Silver Hills Development, whose portfolio features apartment complexes across the Midwest and Southeast, including the Province at Tampa and Beacon 430 in St. Petersburg.
The Silver Hills bid first described the site as “a compelling investment opportunity,” but proposed to purchase only one 3.8-acre parcel directly north of the stadium for $5.7 million. There, it would build a $61 million, four-story, 300-unit apartment complex featuring New Orleans-inspired architecture, “incorporating brick and stucco facades to embrace St. Petersburg’s history.”
Voice and email messages to the person listed as Silver Hills’ principal partner were not returned Thursday.
“We appreciate their interest, it just didn’t fit what we were asking for,” DeLisle said.