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Raze I-175, unite St .Pete, consultants say

HKS Architects has spent the summer hosting public meetings to gather input on how to redevelop Tropicana Field's 85 acres around a new ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Some bold ideas have surfaced. Eliminating I-175 to the south of the Trop and turning it into a tree-lined boulevard is perhaps the biggest.

The idea has stoked debate between those who love the idea and those who don't, some of whom might drive the 40,000 cars that traverse the mile-long spur each day.

On Thursday, HKS presented its latest iteration of the master plan to City Council,

While much of the conversation centered around the practicality of removing I-175 (Short version: feds and state approval required at several levels=years and years), the larger question of why the Trop site needs to be reconnected to the neighborhoods to the south received plenty of attention.

One possible solution? Creating a six-acre parklike overpass over the interstate to integrate the poor, predominantly black Campbell Park neighborhood with the Trop.

Does the plan work if that doesn't happen, asked Council chairwoman Amy Foster.

It works, said HKS architect Randy Morton, but at an ethical cost.

"They will not come," Morton said, referring to Midtown residents. The destruction of the African-American Gas Plant community to build the Trop has left cultural and physical scars, he said.

If the political will isn't summoned to break down the concrete wall of I-175, then those division will persist, he said.

"Doing nothing means nothing will happen," Morton said.

A final plan will be delivered to the city by the end of October or early November. HKS is being paid $420,000 to develop the plan by the city and the Rays.