Tropicana Field development is painful for former residents of the site, but marks a 'new beginning'
The 86-acre site was home to two predominantly black neighborhoods until the 1980s. The new proposal, if approved, would turn the area into a mix of housing, parks, office space and shops.
Residents of St. Petersburg have long awaited a decision on what will happen to the Tropicana Field site.
But no one has watched as closely as the site’s former residents.
The 86-acre site was home to two predominantly black neighborhoods — Gas Plant and Laurel Park — until the 1980s. Hundreds of families lost their homes.
The decision over redeveloping the land has been emotional for those from the community.
Leaders of St. Petersburg's Black community watched Thursday's selection of a developer for the Tropicana Field site intently, and have remained vocal and involved throughout the selection process.
Watson Haynes, president and CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League, said the league "interrogated" the final two developers about their plans. However, the League formally endorsed and worked with Midtown Development of Miami months prior to Kriseman’s decision.
Haynes said the Urban League will be following the project's progress.
“This is gonna be real,” he said. “This is not some play game, this is not some fluff. Because if I'm involved in it, it's gonna happen."
If approved by the St. Petersburg City Council, the site would be redeveloped to include affordable housing, retail, office space and parks.
Gwendolyn Reese is a former resident of the Gas Plant neighborhood and a member of a team that reviewed the proposals. The destruction of the neighborhoods is a difficult part of St. Petersburg's history, she said. But she is excited for what's to come.
"It signifies a new beginning,” she said. “It signifies a new day. It signifies finally I can have some hope. Because hope was very lean in the past, but now because of these actions, I can truly hope that things will definitely be different as we move forward."
Reese said the announcement comes as former residents of Gas Plant and Laurel Park prepare to gather for a neighborhood reunion outside Tropicana Field.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the relationship that the Pinellas County Urban League had with one of the two final developers being considered for the project.