Ken Welch the pragmatist: Delays aren’t always a bad thing

Take the time to do it right or take the time to do it twice.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch made a prudent and smart decision to delay the deadline for submissions on Tropicana Field side redevelopment proposals.

On Oct. 18, Welch approved a request from the Tampa Bay Rays to extend the Request for Proposals deadline, which the team submitted on Oct. 13. The team asked for “adequate time for local and regional partners to fully engage with interested stakeholders, according to the Tampa Bay Times. 

The extension accounts for unforeseen delays in the process as a result of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in Florida on Sept. 28.

Even without the effects of a hurricane and the inevitable kinks that puts in any substantive process as priorities shift to response and recovery, granting the Rays’ request ensures the city has access to not only options, but good options. 

If the Rays, or any proposer, rushed to meet a deadline the results could have led to incomplete submissions or, perhaps worse, few or no submissions. 

Critics will be quick to pounce on the Mayor’s acquiescence to the Rays as evidence he is prioritizing corporate interests over city benefit. They would be wrong.

Welch may have had some rocky moments in the first year of his administration, and it’s fair to ask questions and hold him accountable for any missteps, but on the issue of community benefit, Welch’s track record speaks for itself.

He’s taken bold action, despite knowing there would be pushback, to delay redeveloping city-owned property on the 800 block of 1st Ave. South by denying a proposal from TPA and Moffitt because it didn’t meet his administration’s stated goals for affordable and workforce housing.

For those in the “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” camp that was a bad thing. Even the Tampa Bay Business Journal pointed out, in its own narrative not in a quote, that “instead of having too few attainable apartments under construction … there are none.”

But for those who are more pragmatic and forward thinking, they understand that the city has finite access to land resources. If they hand out sweetheart deals and compromise on firm goals, there is no getting that land back to do it right later. 

The Historic Gas Plant District, as Welch’s administration has rebranded it, is no different. Welch set a lofty goal when he canceled the original Trop site selection made by his predecessor. But even then he noted the timeline was aspirational. 

And the delay is just two weeks, a drop in the bucket when you consider this will be a years-long project.

And as for the Rays, it’s a good thing they are being active participants in the process. It signals optimism that they are serious about possibly staying in St. Pete, even if that eventuality is a matter of undesired circumstance.

If the goal is to keep the Rays in St. Pete, it makes sense that they have a seat at the table in redevelopment plans of the current stadium site. 

Having access to 86-acres of developable land in the city’s urban core is nearly unprecedented, and certainly unprecedented in modern times. The site must be cohesive. It must address historical failures, provide benefit for residents, welcome new residents AND serve as a destination unto itself. 

If the site is to include a stadium, which was the goal long before Welch took office, the Rays need to be able to work with developers to ensure a seamless design that integrates all features, from ballpark to residence to green space to business. 

Two weeks won’t hurt that process, it will enhance it. 

Welch will no doubt continue to face pushback from the development community for his decisions to delay or cancel projects, which also includes redeveloping the Municipal Services Center and another parcel near Tropicana Field. They worry such moves hint at an unpredictable administration.

But consider this: He is establishing a pattern and there is nothing unpredictable about that.

What Welch IS doing, which should be commended, is setting a new tone. He’s sending a message that developing city land comes with certain responsibility. If developers want incentives, in whatever form they take, they must provide benefit. 

He demanded that with the TPA/Moffitt proposal and he’s demanding it with the Trop site. If the Rays are willing to play ball under those circumstances, give them the two weeks. 

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.

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    October 28, 2022 at 11:14 pm



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