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Business Observer Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 6 months ago

Outgoing mayor leaves a parting gift

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Mayor Rick Kriesman picks plan for Tropicana Field redevelopement.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

The parting gift! What a wonderful tradition, right?

Presidents on the way out the door hand out pardons. Boards give departing CEOs golden parachutes. Quarterbacks and movie stars give their supporting casts Rolexes on the last day. Heck, even the lowliest of office worker gets a cake and, maybe, a lunch.

Not to be outdone in the competition for the best parting gift is St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Kriseman, who leaves office in January after two terms and who better get packing if he hasn’t started, signed off on a $2.7 billion development deal Dec. 2 to a Miami company to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site.

Kriseman held a packed press conference to declare he’d decided Midtown Development would transform the home of the Tampa Bay Rays from the stadium-that-fans-forgot into an urban paradise — complete with residential, retail and office components as well as parks and open spaces.

As magnanimous as the gift is, it seems Kriseman forgot one detail: he’s not the one making the final decision. That will be left to incoming Mayor Ken Welch and the St. Petersburg City Council. Both have already told Kriseman — even before he gathered the press at the well-attended gaggle — they would have their own conversations about what to do with the site.

Welch, in a statement the day of the announcement, made sure the public knew where things stand and that he, working with city council, would make the call — not Kriseman.

“As mayor, I plan to put the same amount of effort in evaluating those plans as well as new ideas and moving forward with a version that capitalizes on St. Petersburg’s incredible momentum and reconnects our community.”

Welch also wants the Rays to be part of the process, telling the Business Observer in October that a “big part of (the redevelopment) is coming to some certainty with the Rays.”

The team, for its part, is pushing a plan to divide the season between either Tampa or St. Petersburg and Montreal, playing half a season in a brand-new stadium paid, in part, with taxpayer money in each city.

There, of course, is a chance Midtown will be the company that redevelops the site of Tropicana Field some far off day as the Rays take the field at the Stade Olympique on avenue Pierre-De Coubertin in Montreal. But that won’t be because Kriseman announced his decision at a press conference Dec. 2, 2021.

Though some critics will say the reason the Rays are playing in Montreal on that far off day is Kriseman’s real parting gift to St. Petersburg.

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