City officials and members of the Hines/Tampa Bay Rays team met for the first time Wednesday since Mayor Ken Welch selected their proposal to redevelop Tropicana Field’s 86 acres.
And while consultants hired by the city had prepared a list of discussion points for the redevelopment of the former Historic Gas Plant District, they barely got through introductions, participants said.
The two-hour kickoff meeting held at Tropicana Field was conducted like a meet-and-greet. Some of the players were meeting for the first time. Under bidding rules, city officials were not allowed to speak to any of the prospective development teams while they sought and reviewed applications from companies seeking to make over the former Historic Gas Plant District.
The city’s consultants for the development, HR&A Advisors, had created a sheet titled “Key Topics for Discussion” with nine categories for Wednesday’s meeting. The topics are infrastructure and public financing; development program; affordable and workforce housing; performance standards and guarantees; jobs and workforce development; other community benefits; operations, maintenance and capital expenditures; zoning and land use controls; and land valuation methodology.
City officials and the Hines/Rays group didn’t get to that sheet at their meeting Wednesday. Instead, Rays co-President Brian Auld said they discussed points of contact between the city and the Hines/Rays teams. After introductions, he said the teams “got to the heart of the issues.”
“I think the key is going to be each side understanding each other and which resources to deploy where,” Auld said Thursday after participating in a panel discussion held by the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club at Tropicana Field.
It’s not clear who at the city instructed HR&A to put together a discussion sheet or how or why the topics were compiled. Coming off of Welch’s highly anticipated Jan. 30 public announcement of his pick to redevelop Tropicana Field, few new details have emerged out of City Hall.
Through a spokesperson, Welch declined an interview about Wednesday’s meeting and declined to make anyone else from the city available to discuss it.
“Our initial kick-off meeting with the Hines and Tampa Bay Rays teams was an early demonstration of our commitment to working together as we determine the next steps in this process,” said the spokesperson, Communication’s Director, Alizza Punzalan-Randle, in an email. “With an eye on Inclusive Progress, we are eager and ready to move this generational project forward.”
Welch pointed to the statement and declined questions seeking details when approached at the Tiger Bay forum Thursday.
“It was a great meeting,” he said. “We’re collaborating and it’s moving forward. That’s all I want to say at this point.”
At the Tiger Bay forum, Auld was asked how the Rays will mesh how the baseball team will make a profit out of the development while meeting social goals sought by the city as part of its plan. Those include building affordable housing, establishing the first purpose-built African American history museum in the state and honoring the legacy of the Gas Plant, the Black neighborhood that was razed to make way for Tropicana Field.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“We are now going to work on a development agreement that it’s going to take between 120 and 3,000 days to pull together, hopefully on the earlier side of that,” Auld joked, “and that’s going to very clearly spell out what needs to happen and in what ways so both of those goals can be monitored collectively. That’s why it’s got to be a public-private partnership.”
The city recently updated its project timeline on the development’s webpage. The city now anticipates that a use agreement will be executed and a term sheet for development will be complete by the end of 2023. The development agreement is projected to be executed in Summer 2024.