A group of local business owners that includes influential philanthropist Kiran Patel is betting its Tampa Bay roots will help clinch the bid to redevelop Tropicana Field. But community ties may not be enough to make up for the team’s lack of experience, according to feedback from the city of St. Petersburg.
As other bidders have boasted relationships with big-name developers and flashy national firms, the group called Restoration Associates has tried instead to brand itself as the “home team.”
“We’re stakeholders who care about this community,” said E. William Henry, the principal in charge of RGA Design and the group’s de facto leader. “We will still be here, win, lose or draw.”
In their evaluation of the bid, city officials questioned whether the team was prepared to take on a project of this size and scope. A preliminary evaluation from the city described Restoration Associates’ proposal as “confusing,” “hard to read,” “(lacking) detail” and “(missing) the intent.”
“This team does not meet qualifications and should be rejected,” City Architect Raul Quintana wrote in his evaluation. St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said he will announce who he will pick to redevelop the site on Jan. 30 during his State of the City address.
Here’s what you need to know about the Restoration Associates proposal.
Kiran Patel is a cardiologist-turned-hotelier who has contributed millions of dollars to local philanthropic causes, including a conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts and a high school named for him in Tampa. His most prominent real estate venture is building the $175 million Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach resort, which he sold last year. His real estate company, Onicx Group, is one of several lead developers for Restoration Associates.
Steve Freedman is the president and owner of Freedman’s Development, Freedman’s Self Storage and Freedman’s Office Furniture. In August, he sold a self-storage facility near Midtown in Tampa for $18.5 million and plans to build a new 10-story, $24 million self-storage project downtown, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. He will serve as a lead developer for Restoration Associates.
Paula Rhodes is president and CEO of InVictus Development, a real estate firm focused on affordable housing. Before starting the company in 2015, Rhodes was a director of development at Norstar Development USA. InVictus is another lead developer for Restoration Associates.
E. William Henry is the principal in charge of RGA Design, an architectural firm based in Tampa. RGA has worked on two other proposals to redevelop Tropicana Field — first under St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker in 2008 and then again under St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman in 2020. This time around, RGA will act as the manager for the four lead developers on the Restoration Associates team.
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Past development experience
A third-party consultant for the city assessed each bidder’s level of experience working on different types of projects. It gave Restoration Associates a 2 out of 3 for residential, a 1 out of 3 for office/workplace and a 1 out of 3 for hospitality/destination.
Some of the most notable projects the team has worked on include Parramore Oaks, a $28.4 million affordable housing project that InVictus developed for the city of Orlando, and Main Street Landing, a $15.8 million mixed-use development that Onicx headed up in New Port Richey.
Restoration Associates was the only team that gave an option to renovate Tropicana Field instead of building a new stadium. Upgrades would cost around $600 million.
“Everybody gets excited over a new site for a stadium, but nobody knows where the funds to build it are,” Henry said, adding that they felt it was important to have a realistic backup plan.
Other highlights include:
- A $350 million “intermodal center” with parking for 6,800 vehicles, and people movers to bring fans from their cars to the stadium.
- A $450 million, 450-key hotel and convention center.
- Up to 3,350 residential units, including 2,175 affordable units.
- A $50 million African American history museum and memorial park.
- A $100 million research and development park.
No funding source has been identified to build a new $1.5 billion baseball stadium. Henry explained that they could come up with $600 million in funds to renovate the existing Tropicana Field by using a combination of taxes from the project’s downtown district and a contribution from the Tampa Bay Rays, who currently lease the Trop and are also bidding on the project to redevelop it.
The intermodal center, the museum and the memorial park would be funded in part through federal grants, including money from the recent federal infrastructure bill. These funds are not guaranteed.
Funding for the affordable housing units would rely heavily on affordable housing tax credits and a variety of other state, federal and local affordable housing programs. Some of these programs are competitive, so the funds are not guaranteed.
Private funds from various team members would be used to build the self-storage component, the research and development park and a mixed-use building.