St. Petersburg has 15 questions for potential Tropicana Field developers

Mayor Ken Welch says he wants to “finalize a pick” for a developer in the next 90 days.
A city flag flies during a news conference on Dec. 2, announcing former Mayor Rick Kriseman’s pick for Miami’s Midtown Development to redevelop Tropicana Field. Mayor Ken Welch says he will make the final decision.
A city flag flies during a news conference on Dec. 2, announcing former Mayor Rick Kriseman’s pick for Miami’s Midtown Development to redevelop Tropicana Field. Mayor Ken Welch says he will make the final decision. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published April 7, 2022|Updated April 7, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Ken Welch says he wants to select a firm to redevelop Tropicana Field’s coveted 86 acres in the next 90 days.

But first, he and the City Council have a few questions.

City officials on Wednesday sent a list of 15 questions to Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners, the two finalists selected last year by former Mayor Rick Kriseman. Though Kriseman chose Midtown with 34 days left in his tenure, Welch has maintained that he would make the final decision.

Related: St. Petersburg’s Trop development won’t (and will) feel like Miami. Here’s why.

Some questions focus on what’s changed since firms were solicited for the redevelopment, such as challenges from COVID-19, potential supply chain and labor shortages and projections for office space needs and meeting or convention center space.

They ask about developers’ familiarity with the city’s disparity study, which found that Black residents face higher mortality and lower wages, and the community benefits agreement, which requires developers who get significant city funding to reinvest in the community. It also asks for their best ideas for honoring the history of the Gas Plant community — the predominantly Black neighborhood Welch hails from that was razed to build Tropicana Field.

There is a question about the Tampa Bay Rays, possibly the largest tenants of the redevelopment: What is the status of the firms’ dialogue with the team, and how they would deal with leaving space for a new stadium if the Rays elect to continue playing at the site at some later date.

Welch told the Tampa Bay Times that the firms have two weeks to complete the questionnaire. He said the Rays had no input on the questions.

“I’ve got a pretty good notion right now,” Welch said. “I’ve been tracking this since day one as a (county) commissioner. The only thing I want to see now is how they answer those 15 questions that kind of fill the gap between (then) and now.”

City Council members were asked for their feedback last week. Council member Richie Floyd asked if developers have any plan to integrate land potentially vacated by the removal of Interstate 175. The city is exploring lowering the overpass to street-level.

Vice Chairperson Brandi Gabbard submitted multiple questions, most of which asked for specifics. She wanted to include affordable housing for households making less than 60 percent of the area median income and specify how many units would be rentals.

Gabbard asked about the plan to incorporate a multimodal transit station as well as opportunities for small businesses, specifically for those that are minority and women-owned, to operate affordable storefronts or workspaces. She asked for specific examples of how to address long-term sustainability and resiliency in the project.

Her question about possibly incorporating childcare facilities located in the development next to housing did not make it into the final 15 questions.

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Welch said he last met with the Rays about three weeks ago. He did not give any updates on where negotiations stood with the team.

On Monday, Rays president Brian Auld said at a resiliency conference that climate change, particularly sea-level rise, is a factor and may rule out waterfront locations for the Rays. Al Lang Stadium and Albert Whitted Airport, two neighboring sites on downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront, have been floated as potential locations.

Auld also said Monday that he would like the Rays’ new home to serve as an emergency management center for the region. Welch said he hadn’t heard that before.