St. Pete picks Miami developer to transform area around The Trop

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has selected the developer to take on what Kriseman calls the biggest and most important project in the history of the city -- the redevelopment of the 86-acre Tropicana Field site.

Earlier in December, Kriseman announced he had picked Midtown Development of Miami from two finalists to helm a massive project that will transform the site into a walkable, mixed-use community that connects all the neighborhoods around the property, including the historically Black neighborhoods such as Campbell Park that were cut off by the construction of the interstate and later the stadium. 

Midtown’s resume includes the $2 billion Midtown Miami project in that city’s downtown. City Development Alan DeLisle says an in-person visit to that urban development impressed St. Pete officials.

“They developed a very walkable community in the heart of Miami,” DeLisle says. “They focused retail along the street -- not big box or national -- but creative local retail. The buildings were set back like Beach Drive here. The restaurants and cafes were in front and the larger buildings were in back. You could tell there was a lot of energy between the retail and office components of the development. It was a really well-thought-out design, with greenspace in the middle.”

At the Tropicana Field site, Midtown proposed a $2.7 billion to $3.8 billion development called Creekside, a nod to the restored, rerouted Booker Creek that will be a centerpiece of the neighborhood. Plans include up to 8,000 residential units, including 1,000 to 1,900 that are affordable and workforce housing, a 510-room hotel with a 50,000-square-feet conference center, as much as nearly 4 million square feet of office space and up to nearly 389,000 square feet of retail. At least 30 percent of the property, nearly 25 acres, will be greenspace.
 
With buildout projected to take 20 to 30 years, Midtown projects it could generate $17 million to $24 million annually in property tax revenues and create 16,000 to 20,000 permanent jobs.

“There is no other project that could have this type of impact on St. Pete,” DeLisle says. “It will be an economic driver for the next 30 years.”

The only public financial assistance sought is $75 million the city already set aside to go toward infrastructure work on site.

City officials had 21 “guiding principles” that redevelopment proposals for the Tropicana Field property needed to follow. DeLisle says the Midtown proposal went into detail on how it would comply with each, including an estimated $22.5 million contribution to community benefit initiatives such as grants to minority-owned business, money for vocational and job training programs, a community outreach program, and gap funding to help with the development of affordable housing. 

DeLisle says city staff was also impressed by Midtown’s community outreach and community involvement during the preparation and review of its proposal. The Pinellas County Urban League is a member of the development team, for example.

There are still uncertainties moving forward, including the long-lingering question of whether the Tampa Bay Rays will leave the property when the team’s lease at the Trop is up. The development plan includes one scenario with a space for a new baseball stadium and one with no stadium. Either way, the stadium will not be something the developer builds as part of the project. 

Kriseman also hits term limits in January with Mayor-elect Ken Welch taking office.

During his comments announcing his selection, Kriseman said Welch told him he thought it was a good selection process and he had no plans to return to square one and issue a new request for proposals for the site. But Welch does plan to vet the proposal on his own. Eventually, a developer agreement between the city and Midtown would need City Council approval.

Read the City of St. Petersburg's news release about the selection of Midtown Development. Related story: St. Pete is abuzz about prospects for redo of The Trop.
 

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather, and Florida's wealth of outdoor festivals.