St. Pete Chamber supports Rays plan for redeveloping Trop site | Column
“It’s rare for any city to have 86 acres in their downtown core as a blank canvas on which to create a new vision.”
Rendering of proposed Rays stadium and surrounding redevelopment as envisioned by the team and the Hines real estate group.
Rendering of proposed Rays stadium and surrounding redevelopment as envisioned by the team and the Hines real estate group. [ Courtesy of Gensler architectural firm ]
Published Jan. 12|Updated Jan. 12

As St. Petersburg residents and business owners study the proposals to develop the Tropicana Field site, it’s clear this effort will be transformational for the city and create an entirely new community that will be around for generations.

Sandra E. Braham
Sandra E. Braham [ HANDOUT | Sandra E. Braham ]
Chris Steinocher
Chris Steinocher [ St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce ]

It’s rare for any city to have 86 acres in its downtown core as a blank canvas on which to create a new vision. The Historic Gas Plant development will generate billions in investment and economic impact, create new business opportunities and thousands of jobs, and attract more national attention to our thriving city.

What may be less obvious is how challenging it will be to meet the multiple goals of this remarkable effort:

• Honor the site’s history as an established Black neighborhood while creating a future where economic opportunities are significant and inclusive;

• Add affordable housing, office buildings, hotels and retail;

•Provide for cultural arts and public open spaces;

• Restore and enhance Booker Creek;

• Build a 21st century stadium to ensure St. Petersburg remains the home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

It’s a formidable list of priorities and promises, and meeting them all will require a sophisticated, experienced development partner with vision, strong private financing, shared values, and a long-term commitment to St. Petersburg.

The Hines/Rays proposal for the Historic Gas Plant redevelopment offers a vision of our future that provides a thoughtful distribution of opportunity. It balances the types of development on the site to help create a series of cultural connections naturally found in established neighborhoods — including public plazas, a performing arts venue, a home for the Woodson African American Museum of Florida and a Rays stadium that would host community events from high school graduations to business conferences.

Also important are the economic development opportunities in the Rays/Hines proposal that will ensure this site has a healthy balance of jobs, corporate opportunities, and small, ground-floor business spaces. This is a vision that will enable us to better compete for corporate headquarters, expand our footprint in health care and other core business sectors — and provide increased opportunities for Black and other small business owners to succeed. Business owners want to expand to places where their workers want to live, and these residents desire walkable neighborhoods that offer close proximity to restaurants and retail shops. When successfully completed, this project will be an economic catalyst for St. Petersburg and the entire Tampa Bay region.

Housing continues to make headlines as a vital need. The approach to housing in the Hines/Rays proposal, both on the site and throughout the city, is meaningful and realistic for our region’s economic environment. It’s important to note that the Rays/Hines proposal exceeds the city’s target for affordable and workforce housing while remaining economically viable. It’s important we continue to increase our collective knowledge and understanding regarding the best ways to accommodate a variety of housing in every project we do in St. Petersburg. The Hines/Rays proposal is also thoughtful in that the entire proposal is designed to create a community that is livable, walkable and breathes — not one aimed at creating maximum density and profit.

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Finally, the Rays have demonstrated their commitment toward our city, and their investments over the years have been toward to making our city the quality, inclusive and caring community it has become. The Rays Foundation is a leading giver in our community and now has a 25 year track record of providing substantial time, energy and resources to charities, causes and not-for-profit organizations throughout this region and our city.

With the Hines/Rays proposal we secure the Rays’ impact on our economy for generations. We are excited for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch’s reinvigorated approach to the Tropicana Field site and for the shared vision and commitment reflected in the Hines/Rays proposal.

Sandra E. Braham is the chairwoman of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Chris Steinocher is president and chief executive officer of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Governing Board unanimously supports (with abstentions) this recommendation.