ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman sent a memo to City Council on Friday announcing that he will, within seven days, select two finalists for the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site.
After that, he said, the two remaining developers will make presentations to City Council during a committee meeting.
But City Council Chair Ed Montanari said he won’t schedule the meetings. Last month the body approved a resolution saying it does not want the Trop redevelopment process to go forward until after the Tampa Bay Rays make known their intentions to build a new stadium on the site or not. The resolution said the body would not vote to approve a development agreement with a company until then.
It’s yet another escalation in the showdown between City Council and the mayor over the future and the pace of the Trop project.
Kriseman’s memo is in keeping with his proposed timeline, which had him selecting a developer and accompanying vision for the property by May or June. The ultimate goal was to deliver to City Council by the end of the year a negotiated development agreement, which could be one of Kriseman’s major accomplishments before he leaves office in January.
But City Council’s April resolution threw his timeline into jeopardy. The mayor on Friday leaned heavily on Council to reverse course.
“While your hesitancy about moving forward with redevelopment until we receive greater certainty related to the Rays future has been made clear, I believe these two paths are not mutually exclusive,” Kriseman wrote. “I believe we can continue to move forward with selecting and beginning to work on a term sheet and, ultimately, a development agreement with the developer selected, while simultaneously renewing our negotiations with the Rays over a new lease or use agreement, in addition to a financing plan for construction of a new stadium.”
The mayor said beginning the redevelopment process may be a critical part of financing a new stadium, and that further delay could “hinder the progress of stadium discussions with the Rays.”
“A pause or delay could prevent the City and Rays from reaching an agreement keeping the team in St. Petersburg for the long-term future,” he wrote.
Montanari on Friday wrote a one paragraph memo in response: “Pursuant to attached Resolution 2021-178 adopted by City Council on April 15, 2021 I will not be scheduling a Committee of the Whole.”
By phone Monday, Montanari said he was not compelled by the arguments Kriseman made to move forward.
“I don’t think we could have been any more clear as a City Council. Our resolution stands on its own,” Montanari said. “If the mayor wants to send out memos, we’ll read them, but we’ve already taken action on this. Now it’s time to sit down and speak to the Rays and figure out if we can come to an agreement on their future on the Tropicana Field site.”
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He acknowledged that it’s the mayor’s prerogative to narrow the field further and ultimately make his final selection.
There are other political considerations at play. The top three candidates in this year’s St. Petersburg mayoral race all said recently a decision of this magnitude should be left to the incoming mayor.
In his memo, Kriseman said the Rays will also have an opportunity to meet with the final two developers to hear their presentations and discuss coordinating stadium construction.
It’s not clear what steps are next. The mayor said after the would-be Council committee meetings, Council members, team executives, Kriseman’s staff and members of the public would be able to weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of the of the two remaining proposals.