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How should the public judge the Trop proposals? Don't trust the pictures, an urban planner says

Renderings show the Restoration Associates proposal to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District in St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field.
Restoration Associates
Renderings show the Restoration Associates proposal to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District in St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field.

She says renderings of the proposals to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District — and the site of Tropicana Field — will not resemble the actual project in 20 years.

St. Petersburg on Monday released the plans of four developers who hope to reimagine the Historic Gas Plant District and site of Tropicana Field.

While Mayor Ken Welch will ponder the proposals, the public can weigh in during a community presentation Jan. 4 at the Coliseum.

But now that residents can view the proposals on the city's website, what should they be looking for?

Elizabeth Strom, an associate professor of public affairs at the University of South Florida, said many of the renderings in the proposals are impressive.

They include plans not only for a new stadium for the Rays — whose Tropicana Field lease with the city expires in 2027 — but trails, walking areas, increased retail and hotel space, and acknowledgments of the area's rich Black history.

But, she cautioned, these are just concepts and not what the 20-year-long project will end up looking like.

"I see people reacting about whether they like the rendering of the ballpark, but that's not what the baseball stadium's going to look like," Strom . "That's just sort of showing you where they're going to put it. So I would say, enjoy the pretty pictures, but don't make decisions based on them."

Strom said a proven track record and strong local roots are a better sign of who can pull off this long-term project.

"So it's a generational project that will shape the city and will come on line over the next 20 years and we have no idea what that will look like," Strom said. "So, it's very scary and you need to have people who are willing to, sort of, read the trends and take the risks in order to make this work."

Strom said the Sugar Hill Community Partners' plan and the Rays' proposal — in conjunction with the developer Hines — are the strongest contenders.

The Rays' proposal, Strom said, has to be a contender because the team already has a use agreement with the city, and Hines has an international reputation.

Welch is expected to choose a developer in January, with the development agreement present to the St. Petersburg City Council for approval in September or October 2023.

Craig Kopp
Craig Kopp is relatively new to Florida and the Tampa Bay area. The veteran broadcaster and writer spent the majority of his 30 year career in Ohio.
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