ST. PETERSBURG — The city on Monday released the proposals submitted by four developers vying to redevelop Tropicana Field’s 86 acres of prime downtown real estate.
The Historic Gas Plant request for proposals is the city’s second quest to redevelop a swath of downtown once home to generations of Black families and businesses. Mayor Ken Welch canceled the original bid request for proposals issued in the summer of 2020 under then-Mayor Rick Kriseman. With this new appeal, Welch has said he hopes the proposals pay homage to the Black community that was paved over.
The city only released the names of the bidding groups after a 10 a.m. submission deadline Friday. A city spokesperson said officials needed time to review the proposals for potential exemptions from public disclosure under state law, such as confidential financial information.
The city has scheduled a community presentation for Jan. 4 at the Coliseum, where the public is invited to hear each proposer provide an overview of their respective plans. Welch is slated to choose a developer by the end of January.
Here are some of the proposal highlights:
Sugar Hill Community Partners
A group created by San Francisco-based JMA Ventures, Sugar Hill was one of two finalists under the city’s first bid request. They’ve tweaked their proposal to place heavier emphasis on diversity and affordability, committing 50% of their residential units as affordable or workforce housing.
Notable team members: St. Petersburg Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties and The Warrick Dunn Foundation.
Experience: Sacramento’s Downtown Commons, home to the NBA team the Sacramento Kings. Washington, D.C.’s The Wharf. Construction on Tampa’s Water Street.
Development plans: A dual-use stadium for the Rays and the Rowdies to free up Al Lang Stadium for other uses, such as a multigenerational recreation center or expanded public park. Sugar Hill plans to coordinate with the Rays, “assuming that development of the ballpark at the Historic Gas Plant District is proceeding.”
A 350-key business hotel and a 200-key lifestyle hotel and 150,000 square feet of meeting space. A live-event venue with a capacity of 3,000. A new African American History Museum on-site, with a $1 million donation to the Woodson African American Museum of Florida. A roller skating rink. Sugar Hill Park.
First Avenue Gardens would be the “front door” of the development, with live oaks and canopy trees. Anchor stores would line the street. Second Avenue Shops would have small shops, bars and restaurants. The two avenues would be connected by Sugar Hill Bridges over Booker Creek.
Stantec, a design, engineering and architecture partner on the project, has determined that some graves of Black residents remain on-site. Sugar Hill’s plan is to set aside Oaklawn Cemetery land and create Laurel Heritage Park, preserving undisturbed any remaining graves in the south end of the property through the seeding of a native meadow.
Financial ask: Reliance on public finance tools. Plans for a Community Development District to generate substantial bond proceeds. Usage of tax increment finance district funds to leverage the site’s future property tax revenue to pay for its upfront site costs, such as infrastructure and other public amenities.
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A proposed 150,000-square-foot conference center would require about $39 million of public subsidy, possibly through the bed tax. If money isn’t available, the space can be shrunk to 20,000 square feet that would be privately financed.
The project has an estimated construction value of $3.2 billion. Sugar Hill would pay the city fair market value for commercially developed properties through an “open book” negotiation.
Community benefits: Sugar Hill would create the Community Equity Endowment, in which the developer would set aside a profit interest in the project at the outset to pay for community enhancements. The endowment would begin with an initial cash contribution of $5 million. Over 20 years, the value of the profit interest would be expected to grow to $30 million, with one-third used to pay for affordable single-family homes in low-income areas of southern St. Petersburg, one-third for grants to small- and minority-owned businesses and one-third determined by a nonprofit trustee.
Timeline: Phase 1A on the periphery of the site would be done by January 2027. Phase 4 would be complete by January 2034.
Hines and the Tampa Bay Rays
The baseball team was invited by the city to submit its own proposal. Its lease is up at the Trop in 2027. The Rays partnered with Hines, a global real estate investor and development firm, when the team looked at Al Lang Field as a potential new stadium site in 2007-08.
Notable team members: Affordable Housing Partner Dantes Partners, master-plan architect Gensler, ballpark architect Populous, civil and transportation engineer firm Kimley-Horn, Tampa Bay Watch and historian Gwendolyn Reese
Experience: Hines developed the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park and the Toyota Center for the Houston Rockets. Populous says it has developed 22 Major League Baseball ballparks, and dozens of minor league and spring-training parks, including the Rays complex in Port Charlotte, as well as over 20 mixed-used developments.
Development plans: A 2,500- to 3,000-seat Booker music hall for entertainment and school productions and a home for the Woodson African American Museum of Florida, with a $10 million pledge to jumpstart the museum.
There would be a Gameday Street near the new ballpark at the northeast corner of the lot, along with a health, wellness and innovation center that could be home to a sports science and medical building. On the other side of the ballpark would be a residential core with senior living and mixed-income housing, plus a space for artists and creative people, a business incubator and Oaklawn Memorial Park to honor the remains of Black residents that were located on-site.
Plans include a conference hotel and a smaller boutique hotel plus office space, a 16th Street corridor with shops and restaurants, and a Tampa Bay Watch eco-pavilion. About 23% of residential units are designated for affordable housing, with more affordable housing options located off-site.
Not including the 30,000-seat ballpark with a fixed roof, which would remain on the carved-out 17.5 acres of county land and require public dollars, the development would cost around $4 billion.
Financial ask: Hines, the Rays and its partners plan to collectively invest over $1.8 billion of equity for the Historic Gas Plant redevelopment, including more than $180 million from the Rays. They ask for tax-increment financing to pay for $150 million in roadways, utilities, streetscapes and public space. Hines plans to pay $100 million to own the land.
Community benefits: A $50 million commitment that includes $10 million to the Woodson, $15 million toward affordable housing, $13 million for entrepreneur and business creation and a mentorship and apprenticeship program.
Timeline: Phase I, which includes the new ballpark and all land east of Booker Creek, would be ready by 2027.
50 Plus 1 Sports
50 Plus 1 Sports LLC is a Coral Gables-based development firm that is 100% minority-owned, according to its bid. The company’s proposal emphasizes job creation for underserved communities and affordable housing.
Notable team members: 50 Plus 1 Sports would be the primary developer and owner of the project. Monti Valrie is the principal and managing partner for that company. Fresh Coast Development Partners LLC would be the co-developer. The president of that company, Thomas DeMuth, would be responsible for obtaining debt and equity for the project. Former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., is listed as an adviser.
Experience: The company previously worked on the University of New Orleans Sports and Entertainment District, according to its proposal.
Development plans: The west side of the development would have a traditional grid design that includes residential buildings with space for small businesses on the ground level.
The east side would feature a mix of retail, food, beverage and residential space and an intermodal transit hub that would “provide continual activity around the stadium,” according to the proposal.
Greenspace surrounding Booker Creek would connect the two sides. There would be biking and pedestrian trails and a “cultural venue” that could be used as either a museum or performing arts center.
Other features would include an education/tech campus and at least three hotels.
Financial ask: The proposal did not include any information on how 50 Plus 1 Sports plans to pay for the project. A disclaimer in the proposal stated that the financial information portion was being submitted separately because it “constitutes a trade secret.”
In a previous interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Valrie said the company would not ask the city for any tax subsidies to fund the project.
Construction costs are estimated at around $3.95 billion, not including the stadium.
The proposal said the city of St. Petersburg would receive $3.4 billion during the first 40 years of the ground lease under 50 plus 1 Sports’ revenue sharing program. The revenue sharing component would continue for the entire 99-year ground lease term, the proposal said.
Half of the residential units on the project would be designated as affordable or workforce housing, “to make up for years of neglect,” according to the company’s proposal.
The company also is proposing a $10 million grant for job training.
Timeline: The first phase of the project, which includes the new stadium and mixed-use development, would be completed by 2031.
The demolition of Tropicana Field and completion of Booker Creek Commons would begin in 2026 and take until 2035 to complete.
Other mixed-use and residential construction would carry on through 2039.
Four real estate developers joined together to submit this proposal. Each stakeholder has different expertise — ranging from medical offices to affordable housing — and each would focus on a different component of the project.
Notable team members: Local physician and philanthropist Kiran Patel has signed on to the project with his company, Onixc Group. He is joined by a Tampa-based affordable housing developer called Invictus, Brennan Investment Group and Steve Freedman — a local self-storage mogul.
Tampa-based company RGA Design LLC would act as the “master developer,” helping to coordinate between the four stakeholders.
Experience: Patel and his company have developed medical and residential buildings across the state, as well as the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach resort. Invictus was selected by the city of Orlando to revitalize the Paramore neighborhood and build a 211-unit, mixed-income development, according to the proposal. Brennan Investments has built more than 300 office/research and development projects across the country, including a handful in the Tampa Bay area, according to the company’s website.
Development plans: The project includes an intermodal transportation center; 2,350 units of housing, including 1,000 affordable units; retail space; a 12-acre research and development park; a convention center with hotel rooms; and a 280,000-square-foot self-storage building near interstates 75 and 275.
The centerpiece of the development is an African American history museum straddling both sides of Booker Creek. The surrounding greenspace would be developed into a public park.
The proposal spells out two options for the Rays’ homefield. Option A calls for the construction of a brand new retractable dome stadium. Option B would involve various renovations to the existing Tropicana Field.
Community benefits: The group lists the plan to add 1,000 units of affordable housing.
Financial ask: Restoration Associates would seek funding through various affordable housing programs.
It would also look for federal grants to finance other components, such as the transportation center and African American History museum.
Certain partners, including Patel, may help to finance parts of the project.
Editor’s note: The story has been updated to correct the spelling of architectural firm Gensler, which is working with Hines and the Tampa Bay Rays on a proposal to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site.