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Business Observer Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021 7 months ago

Reality or an exercise in futility? Developer picked for $2.7 billion redevelopment

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On his way out the door, St. Petersburg mayor picks Miami developer for Tropicana Field project
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has picked a Miami developer to redevelop Tropicana Field, a decision that faces the very real possibility — like the Tampa Bay Ray’s plans to split their seasons with Montreal — of being dead on arrival.

Kriseman made the announcement that Midtown Development was his choice to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site at a celebratory press conference Thursday, Dec. 2.

The development, called Creekside, is a $2.7 billion project that includes residential, retail and office components. The company also commits to building 1,000 low-to moderate-income residential units, would devote roughly $30 million to building parks and other open spaces, and construct 30 new city blocks on 50 acres.

“I chose this development company, Midtown Development, for many reasons,” says Kriseman, who leaves office in January.

“When I compared the two finalists side by side, they had the best proposal. And equally important, they had the resources to get this done. But of greatest importance to me, they were undaunted by the guiding principles. They understand the collaborative nature of this partnership with our citizens, with the city of St. Petersburg and, perhaps, with the Tampa Bay Rays.”

While all that is well and good, the reality is that St. Petersburg’s City Council has already said it won’t consider the development and Mayor-elect Ken Welch came out with a statement Thursday saying he won’t honor the decision.

In the statement, Welch says the current mayor “has worked hard to develop thoughtful and promising plans for the future of the Tropicana Field site.”

But, he continues, “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.” 

A large part of that decision is going to depend on the Rays’ plans.

The team has a lease at Tropicana Field that expires after the 2027 season. For months now, it has been floating a plan that would allow the team to split its season between either St. Petersburg or Tampa and Montreal. A stadium would be built in each city and the team would capitalize on being based in two markets.

Locally, the team is reported to be interested in Ybor City.

While local business organizations, and some political leaders, have embraced the plan the reality is that there is very little support for taxpayer money going toward a stadium in Montreal, a city which has already lost a baseball team for the exact same reason.

In October, then candidate Welch told the Business Observer that if Kriseman chose a plan his administration would want to review the proposal and that a “big part of that is coming to some certainty with the Rays, as well, and that’s why council stopped the process.”

“I want to rebuild that relationship with the council as well, so we can all come together on a plan to move forward,” he told the Observer.

For it’s part, Midtown Development’s previous projects include the redevelopment of the 22-acre Orlando Sentinel site in Orlando and Midtown Miami, a $2 billion project developed beginning in 2004 on 18 city blocks.

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