ST. PETERSBURG — With a little more than a month to go before he leaves office, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Thursday that he has chosen Miami’s Midtown Development for a makeover of Tropicana Field and the dozens of acres that surround it.
But with a new mayor taking over in January and new City Council members joining the board, what will become of the prime property appears far from settled.
“When I compare the two finalists, side by side, they had the best proposal. And equally important, they have the resources to get this done,” Kriseman said during a Thursday morning news conference at Campbell Park. “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. They understand the need to honor the site’s history and provide real opportunities.”
Kriseman said he and the Rays were playing “phone tag” and he wasn’t able to notify them of his pick. Rays spokeswoman Rafaela Amador declined to comment.
Midtown’s plan, dubbed Creekside, would cost between $2.7 billion and $3.8 billion, depending on the city’s desired level of construction density on the 86-acre site. The developer would purchase the property for $60 million and spend at least $94 million on public areas, such as 36 acres of open space, parks and walkways along Booker Creek.
The developer would ask for $75 million in tax-increment funding for infrastructure. The plan calls for between 6,000 and 8,000 homes, including between 1,000 and 1,600 dedicated to affordable, workforce housing. It would have up to 3.95 million square feet of office space, up to 400,000 square feet of retail space and a 510-room hotel with a 50,000-square-foot conference center. Other highlights include an “Innovation Campus,” a 1.5-mile “Heritage Trail,” work along the 16th Street corridor, a greenway bridge to Campbell Park and an arts park beneath Interstate 275.
If the Rays choose to stay in St. Petersburg, the Midtown plan proposes space for a stadium near its current site, between Booker Creek and 16th Street. Costs and designs for the stadium itself were not part of the city’s request for proposal, and were not included.
The company’s past projects include Midtown Miami, a $2 billion, 70-acre, mixed-use project on a former rail yard along the Biscayne Boulevard corridor; and Midtown Orlando, a 22-acre downtown parcel that’s currently in the master-planning stages.
On the Trop site, the developers said they’re not just trying to build office buildings, stores and homes. They said they are hoping to create a neighborhood.
“A neighborhood that’s filled with opportunity,” said Alex Vadia, a principal of Midtown Development.
Kriseman promised to pick a developer back in May. He said Thursday that he didn’t want to make an announcement during the heat of a city election. Mayor-elect Ken Welch will be inaugurated on Jan. 6. So will three new City Council members on a board of eight.
Kriseman said he informed City Council members of his pick, but an agreement won’t come before the council for approval until the next administration.
“What they’ve said very clearly is that we’re not prepared at this point in time for you to bring us any kind of a development agreement,” he said. “Well, we’re not prepared for that either.”
‘It’s going to fall to the next mayor’
In a statement, Welch said he would review the proposals. He said on the campaign trail that the groundwork laid by the current administration won’t go to waste, but “it’s going to fall to the next mayor.”
“Mayor Kriseman has worked hard to develop thoughtful and promising plans for the future of the Tropicana Field site,” Welch said. “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.”
The Tampa Bay Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field expires in 2027. The city’s talks to keep the team in St. Petersburg have so far been fruitless, and the Rays have been aggressively pursuing a stadium in Ybor City. The Rays and Tampa city officials have met four times in the last month to discuss how fans can get to the park, a proposed 27,000-seat stadium at E Palm Avenue and Nuccio Parkway, without cars.
Kriseman passed on the plan from a group called Sugar Hill Community Partners, led by San Francisco’s JMA Ventures.
The Sugar Hill plan had two working names: “Sugar Hill Parks,” with a new Rays stadium, “Sugar Hill Commons” without. It would have cost up to $3.1 billion, including $837 million in public financing. The plan calls for between 2,000 and 3,200 homes, half of which would be designated affordable or workforce housing; between 2 million and 3.1 million square feet of office space; and between 280,000 and 325,000 square feet of retail space.
Other highlights: Two hotels, one with 500 rooms and another with 150; a 1.1 million-square-foot convention center; up to 1.4 million square feet dedicated to technology and marine science research; a history walk; a cultural arts development program; and a Black-owned craft brewery. If there is a new ballpark, the development would have 24.3 acres of parks and green space, including, potentially, some on the stadium’s roof.
Without a ballpark, there would be 25.7 acres of green space.
The Sugar Hill team did not take Kriseman’s pick as the final word.
”Today’s announcement is not the final selection — just a step in the process,” David Carlock, a partner in the Sugar Hill team, said in a statement. “We believe our plan will best foster equity and create economic growth opportunities, and we will continue our work to make the Sugar Hill Community Partners vision come alive for St. Petersburg residents. We look forward to engaging with Mayor-elect Welch and Council members at the appropriate time.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.