Proposals zeroed in for ‘The Trop’ revamp


Tropicana Field update March 2021 Image: RCLCO

The City of St. Petersburg in Tampa (US) has announced a shortlist of four proposals for the reimagining of the 86-acre Tropicana Field site which serves as the residence of the Major League Baseball (MLB) team – the Tampa Bay Rays – as the City looks at the future of a downtown gateway with or without Tampa Bay Rays baseball.

The ‘Ballpark Digest’ reported that in January 2021, the City revealed proposals from seven development groups for recreating the stadium site, with the list having now been zeroed in on four. The four firms shortlisted are – JMA Ventures/Sugar Hill Community Partners, Midtown Development, Portman-Third Lake and Unicorp National Development.

The Tampa Bay Rays are an American professional baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League East division. Since its inception, the team’s home venue has been Tropicana Field.

The 42,735-capacity Tropicana Field, also commonly known as ‘The Trop’, is a domed stadium located in St. Petersburg, Florida, United States, that has been the home of the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball since the team’s inaugural season in 1998.

The four prospective partners have been invited to submit further details and participate in a public engagement phase of application. The final selection of a partner will be made later this year.

The City informed that the four shortlisted companies “best represented” the guidelines laid down within its request for proposal, which it launched last July. The City added that the four firms have a “proven track record of executing large, mixed-use developments”.

Remarked St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, “We received many quality submissions to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, and I am thankful for the time, money and energy that each team expended. Four submissions clearly stood out as truly exceptional and I am excited for our residents to learn more about each one.”

Added Kriseman, “The future of that site, with or without baseball, has never been brighter. As I’ve said time and again, this is our chance to get it right, and to right wrongs. I encourage everyone to remain engaged in this process as we move forward.”

Residents will be able to attend hybrid as well as in-person meetings to provide input regarding the proposals, while immersive showrooms will also be located throughout the City that will provide executive summaries of the proposals, as well as renderings.

The picture is still not clear whether the reconfigured site will incorporate a new baseball stadium for the Rays, with the City having asked applicants to enter two proposals – one including a stadium and another sans a facility.

The Rays’ present lease at Tropicana Field expires in 2027 and the deal entitles the team to 50 percent of the revenue of any development on that land before 2028, regardless of whether a venue is included. It is reported that the Rays’ involvement in the development was at risk over disputes concerning who would take charge of the site’s redevelopment and subsequent revenues.

The situation has also got complicated over the Rays’ plans to potentially split games between Tampa and the Canadian City of Montreal. In February 2020, the team said a “meaningful step” had been taken towards securing the future of the team in the Tampa Bay region as a deadline was set for an agreement on the novel proposal that would see it split its season with Montreal.

The Rays are said to have business partners with preliminary plans to build a stadium with private funds in Montreal, but games cannot be played before the 2028 season with the Canadian group not committing to the stadium plan until it has a firm contract in place with the Rays.

JMA Ventures/Sugar Hill Community Partners proposal

The ‘Tampa Bay Times’ reported that San Francisco’s JMA Ventures and New York’s Sugar Hill Community Partners delivered an ambitious proposal that calls the Trop site “a difficult reminder of a once vibrant neighborhood”, but aspires to create “an urban anchor and model of inclusive development”. It would feature an expanded Booker Creek including an 11-acre park and “urban beach” as well as a 500-room hotel and 650,000-square-foot convention center. Unlike other proposals, it names a few specific partnerships, from a minority-owned brewery created in partnership with 3 Daughters Brewing, to a potential deal for a 500,000-square-foot campus for California marine technology center AltaSea created in concert with the University of South Florida. A new, 25,000-seat Rays’ stadium would be integrated into the topography, creating Wrigley Park-style viewing from nearby buildings. The plan calls for $836.8 million in public funding out of a total cost of more than $3 billion.

JMA and Sugar Hill are among the leaders of a sprawling network of developers and investment groups whose projects dot the globe, from Atlanta’s Ponce City Market to San Francisco’s 18,064-capacity Chase Center.

Midtown Development proposal

Miami-based Midtown Development unveiled a proposal called Creekside, which makes Booker Creek one of the key components of the development, creating five distinct areas around the water feature. A largely residential development – homes will be on the higher floors of the buildings while ground-level storefronts will be reserved for retail, dining and other customer-facing uses. Midtown promises to build at least 1,000 units of affordable workforce or moderately-priced homes into the project, accounting for at least 20 percent of all housing. It promises to bake the site’s history into the project with a partnership with the Pinellas County Urban League and a commitment to fund “vocation, education and equitable justice initiatives”. The proposal also includes expanding upon the City’s heritage trail and creating a Heritage Bridge, which would connect the project to Campbell Park to the South.

The company proposed buying the ‘Trop’ property outright for $60 million, plus it will invest more than $90 million in infrastructure upgrades, which includes $30 million in parks. The deal does include using $75 million in tax increment financing the City has made available for the project.

Portman Holdings-Third Lake Partners proposal

The ‘Tampa Bay Times’ further reported that Atlanta developers Portman Holdings and local investment firm Third Lake Partners presented a proposal expected to cost between $2.3 billion and $2.6 billion, with public funds used “sparingly.” The plan promises integration into regional transit programs, tech- and environment-friendly architecture and memorials to past generations of residents of the City’s demolished Gas Plant District. It suggests an expansion of Brooker Creek recreational areas and a “garden bridge” over Interstate 175 linking the site to Campbell Park. It would have at least 305,000 square feet of retail, between 1.9 million and 2.5 million square feet of commercial and office space, a 400-room hotel with 50,000 square feet of meeting space and, if a stadium is not needed, a 203,000-square-foot hub for the creative arts.

Unicorp National Developments proposal

Orlando’s Unicorp National Developments shared its proposal, dubbed ‘Petersburg Park’, as per which about 20 percent of the land would be made up of linked parks and green spaces surrounding an expanded Booker Creek. Unicorp also envisions a 400-room hotel, around 3,000 residences, a 70,000-square-foot conference center, 155,000 square feet of office space and up to 312,000 square feet of retail. The plan describes the park as “the heart for all civic (and) social activities … where people of all races and income levels can congregate, live, work, play, and relax”.

Unicorp has built mixed-use and retail projects from Sarasota to Troy, Michigan, but most are centered on the company’s headquarters in Orlando.

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