Tropicana Field developer hopefuls seek details on new bid request

Developers attended the in-person and virtual meeting to get clarity on what the city is seeking.
An aerial view of Tropicana Field and the surrounding area looking east towards downtown, on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
An aerial view of Tropicana Field and the surrounding area looking east towards downtown, on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2021) ]
Published Sep. 14, 2022|Updated Sep. 14, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — Developers interested in winning the bid to redevelop the 86 acres surrounding Tropicana Field, recently renamed as the Historic Gas Plant District, attended a city meeting Wednesday seeking answers.

Many of the city’s responses to developers were open-ended, leaving them to come up with the proposals that best follow 23 guidelines shaped by community feedback and set forth by Mayor Ken Welch.

The pre-proposal meeting, held at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, was aimed to fill in the blanks of the new proposal request issued last month. In June, Welch canceled the original bid request issued by his predecessor Rick Kriseman in 2020, calling for a new round of proposals that account for the economic fallout of the pandemic and an ongoing affordable housing crisis.

The new bid request also emphasizes a commitment for developers to hire minority contractors and honor the historically Black former Gas Plant community.

“I am confident the requirements laid out in this (request for proposals) will chart a path to reach our goals of inclusive progress and equitable redevelopment,” Welch said in a recorded video shown at the meeting.

Kriseman had narrowed down the developers to two finalists, Sugar Hill Community Partners out of San Francisco and Miami’s Midtown Development. Kriseman chose Midtown as a developer days before he left office. When Welch canceled that bid, Midtown thanked the city and wished Welch the best of luck.

On Wednesday, Brian Caper, the city’s new director of economic and workforce development, took questions from some of the 37 people who showed up in-person and 51 others who signed up online.

Sugar Hill’s team sat front and center at Wednesday’s meeting. Development manager David Carlock asked about criteria for the selection of a bid. Caper said developers should follow the 23 guiding principles.

“Ultimately the mayor will make a decision on the most qualified proposer that embodies the values outlined in the (request for proposals),” Caper said.

Brett Sherman, a principal of urban places at Stantec, asked how they should think about the 17.3 acres carved out for a new baseball stadium. Caper said those acres were determined in cooperation with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Is it a separate (request for proposals)?” Sherman asked.

“I’m not exactly sure which direction the mayor would like to go about that,” Caper said. “We may elect to do a separate (request for proposals) just on those 17.3 acres or fold that into the larger (development).”

Proposals are due to the city by Nov. 18. The last day to ask questions, which will be answered publicly on the city’s website, is Nov. 14. Welch said he expects to make a decision by the end of the year.