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Commercial Real Estate
Business Observer Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 8 months ago

Take the Field

Potential Tropicana Field site redevelopers outline what they contend gives their proposal an advantage over the competition.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

Each of the potential redevelopers of the 85-acre Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg believes that their proposal has an element or concept that will separate it from the competition in the eyes of St. Petersburg’s mayor and city council.

The city last month received seven proposals to revamp the municipally owned property with retail and office space, hotel rooms and a conference center, open space and parks, condominiums and apartments and social programs aimed at lifting the community’s residents.

For the winning developer, the site could represent a two decade-long project valued at billions of dollars and millions of square feet and one that generates tens of thousands of jobs.

“This project is so important to the city, and the development team that’s selected will be a partner with St. Petersburg,” says Alan DeLisle, the city’s development administrator.

“This will be a public-private partnership in the truest sense.”

For the team comprising Atlanta’s Portman Holdings, local developers Third Lake Partners and Echelon LLC and designer HKS Architects, its potential $2.6 billion redevelopment will lean heavily on its principals’ local ties and history in the community.

“I think our local perspective in moving forward will be very important,” says Ken Jones, Third Lake’s chairman and CEO. “And I firmly believe that our collective financial strength and longevity in the community is second to none. We have proven staying power, and we intend to be around for decades to come.

“We understand that this is complicated and it has a lot of moving parts and constituencies, but we also know that our plan can have a transformative impact on the city,” adds Jones. “Just as importantly, all the residents of St. Petersburg have been taken into consideration in crafting our proposal.”

Sugar Hill Community Partners, a team made up of JMA Ventures, the Machete Group, local offices of design and engineering giant Stantec, St. Petersburg-based Backstreets Capital and J Square Development and master-planning architect Henning Larsen, contends its vast experience sets it apart.

“The companies on our team have built careers embracing larger, complex projects,” says David Carlock, the founder and principal of Machete Group, which has two decades of experience with sports venues and related development.

COURTESY RENDERING — Sugar Hill Community Partners believes its team's experience gives it an edge.

“We appreciate them and the transformative effect they can have on a community at large, and that’s the case here,” he adds. “We’re familiar with what it takes to execute and be successful and we’ve pulled together a team that can deliver that. There’s really no substitute for having rolled up one’s sleeves and done the homework and completed projects such as this.”

Unicorp National Developments Inc., an Orlando-based company with developments throughout Florida, believes its team’s focus on open space and the arts will give it the edge.

Like the Portman/Third Lake team, Unicorp’s team has a local flavor, with Tampa-based Feldman Equities LLC, the Tampa office of commercial real estate brokerage Colliers International and an offshoot of Sarasota’s Hoyt Architects, among others, on board.

“I’ve looked at all the proposals, and some are more dense than ours in terms of square footage and some generate more tax revenue to the city than ours, but no one provides more open space and leverages the natural environment the ways ours does,” says Chuck Whittall, Unicorp National’s president and founder.

“We understand that density and physical improvements to the site are important, but our proposal is centered on what’s best for the community,” he adds. “Just as Central Park in New York City enriches the community far beyond it, we’ve tried to do that with the Tropicana Field site.

“We plan on building something that will appeal to all income levels and be beneficial to everybody.”

COURTESY RENDERING — Unicorp National Developments Inc.'s proposal focuses on ample open space and arts offerings.

SROA Capital, meanwhile, developed a proposal that would accentuate the site’s baseball heritage by incorporating the sport into the property with a new baseball-themed museum and other attractions.

Benjamin MacFarland III, SROA Capital’s founder and whose ancestor Ben Shibe owned the then-Philadelphia Athletics for two decades in the early 20th Century, says the West Palm Beach company’s baseball-centric development differentiates it from the other half-dozen proposals submitted.

“We have a passion to build something in St. Petersburg that will access and highlight Florida’s pastime, baseball, which has been such a huge part of the state’s history and my family’s history,” he says.

For its part, TRS Development Services’ plan says its proposal will save the public the most money.

COURTESY RENDERING — SROA Capital's plan accentuates the site's ties to professional baseball.

Paula Barca, CEO of Restoration Design Worldwide, a Tampa-based firm that specializes in reclamation of properties damaged through fire or natural disaster, notes TRS Development’s plan is the only one that envisions retrofitting — not replacing — Tropicana Field for professional baseball.

Its plan includes a new 28,000-seat stadium that would feature an open-roof design, work on which would be spearheaded by Restoration Design. To pay for the refurbishment, TRS Development would construct a trio of high-rise, luxury condominium towers rising as high as 50 stories.

“From a financial perspective, our project would take less money out of taxpayers’ pockets,” Barca says. “The luxury towers we’re proposing would pay for the majority of the stadium’s renovation.”

Two other potential Tropicana Field site developers — Wendover Housing Partners of Altamonte Springs and Midtown Development LLC, of Miami — declined to comment on their plan and failed to respond to inquiries by deadline, respectively.

For now, the city is taking public input on all the plans. At the same time, a 26-member community review committee is considering each proposal “from every angle, all the strengths and weaknesses,” DeLisle says.

Sometime in March a short-list of candidates will be developed by Mayor Rick Kriseman and St. Petersburg’s City Council, which will lead to a series of charrettes and developer presentations and another round of community feedback.

Before the end of June, the city hopes to begin work on a detailed term sheet and development agreement that would govern future work on the site.

“The goal is to be able to bring something back to the Council by the end of the year,” DeLisle says.




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