St. Petersburg is launching a new request for proposal (RFP) to redevelop the Trop site, canceling the previous RFP and selection issued by former Mayor Rick Kriseman in 2020.
St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch announced the decision outside the Trop site, saying he made the choice after careful consideration and communication with city staff regarding city needs, current economic trends and changing workforce needs.
“As a County Commissioner, I was fully engaged in this process — attending meetings and presentations, speaking with the Kriseman administration and prospective development groups in my role as the County Commissioner whose district was based in St. Petersburg. I am impressed with the efforts from the two finalists in the current RFP process — Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners,” Welch said at the Wednesday announcement.
While Welch lauded the vision proposed by Midtown Development, which was chosen by Kriseman to take on the development of the 86 acre site, he emphasized the need for an update to fit new conditions.
“They have listened to our community and have responded with their vision of the development of these 86 acres in accordance with our community needs in terms of housing, office space, meeting space, green space and impactful economic development, including inclusive opportunities for local and minority businesses. There has also been robust community engagement in developing a vision for this generational project,” he continued.
In response to the canceling of their proposal, Midtown Development released a statement saying the wish St. Pete “all the best.”
“Midtown Development has been honored to spend the last few years working with our partners in the City of St. Petersburg on the Tropicana Field RFP. We have made many friends in the St. Petersburg Community, including Watson Haynes of the Pinellas County Urban League. We are truly grateful for their friendship. We wish Mayor Ken Welch and the residents of the City of St. Petersburg all the best in their future efforts to redevelop Tropicana Field,” Alex Vadia of Midtown Development said in a statement.
While pressed about the delay this could have on the development by scrapping previously set plans, Welch disagreed, saying it builds on what they learned.
“Our environment has changed in many ways since the initial RFP was issued in July of 2020, and we must ensure the RFP meets our current environment and realities and incorporates the most up-to-date information.”
Among the new conditions that must be considered, Welch listed the impact of the pandemic, which has reduced the potential need for office space. He also pointed to the cost of rental housing and home ownership, which has skyrocketed since 2020, making affordable and workforce housing a higher priority.
Supply chain and labor issues are also impacting the cost of capital projects, Welch said. He also wants intentional equitable development, citing results of the city’s Disparity Study and Structural Racism report.
In addition to the Trop development, Welch said the new RPF is an important opportunity to bring certainty to the future of the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete. The Rays lease on Tropicana Field expires in 2027. As the city hopes to keep the baseball team on its side of the Bay, Tampa is also bidding to become the new home of the team.
The Welch administration has spent significant time building and rebuilding relationships with key partners, including City Council, Pinellas County, members of the community and the Tampa Bay Rays, he said.
“I am optimistic we will choose that right path, one that will bring jobs, equitable and diverse business opportunities, meet our need for housing, meeting space and innovative economic drivers, and support a state-of-the-art home for the Rays for decades to come,” Mayor Welch said.
Mayor Welch has instructed staff to target the new RFP release for August, and will recommend a developer before the end of 2022, according to a timeline from the city. By May 2023, he hopes to complete a term sheet with the selected developer and present the development agreement to the City Council by fall 2023.
The city will hold a series of community outreach events as the RFP is developed and through the decision-making process once the RFP has been issued.
Midtown Development was the firm Kriseman tasked with redeveloping the Trop site back in December. Florida-based Midtown Development proposed the site as a mixed-use neighborhood at a pedestrian scale, called “Creekside.” The city’s contribution would not exceed its already-budgeted $75 million under the Midtown plan, which also includes a commitment to pump $238 million into the city.
The proposal included 6,000 residential units, 3.3 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail space, a hotel, conference center and innovation complex. The previous selection came after a year of sorting through seven proposals from developers across the country that offered detailed redevelopment plans.