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Welch chooses a proposal by Hines and the Rays to reimagine the Tropicana Field site

Gabriella Paul
WUSF Public Media
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch addresses the media after choosing a joint proposal from the Tampa Bay Rays and development firm Hines to reimagine the 86-acre site of Tropicana Field and the Historic Gas Plant District on Jan. 30, 2023.

Welch announced his decision during his State of the City, saying he's "confident that this decision is the best path forward."

Saying "history does matter," St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch has chosen a joint proposal from the Tampa Bay Rays and development firm Hines to reimagine the 86-acre site of Tropicana Field and the Historic Gas Plant District.

Welch chose the Hines-Rays development team over three other groups that submitted plans to redevelop the site.

Speaking at his State of the City news conference on Monday, Welch said the proposal was "the best partner for this generational endeavor, and now the next phase of work begins to bring this dream to reality for everyone in St. Petersburg."

“I saw a need to build a better path forward by prioritizing the community’s need for affordable and workforce housing — both onsite and offsite," Welch said. "And as a child who visited many a restaurant, corner store and worked at my grandfather’s wood yard, the opportunity for restorative economic opportunities needed to be a clearly stated priority.

READ: See the Hines/Rays proposal and renderings

“This has been a complex decision, with two particularly strong proposals from capable teams," Welch said. "We have received input and feedback from diverse groups and individuals, and we have received staff and consultant analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals. 

Welch chose the Hines-Tampa Bay Rays development team over three other groups that submitted plans to re-imagine the 86-acre site.

"The process was detailed and transparent," Welch said, "and as your mayor, I have done my homework. I am confident that this decision is the best path forward."

Welch said the Hines-Rays proposal focuses on economic growth, jobs, and other community priorities, along with what he called meaningful inclusion of the African-American community.

"I am naming the partner and a concept for a project that will last over a decade and will span multiple administrations," Welch said. "As the plan moves forward under my administration, we will adhere to our model of inclusive governance — asking for input from all stakeholders, including the community, to ensure that we are meeting the goals of this development. I know our St. Pete community will stay engaged and informed as this project takes shape.”

The plan includes a state-of-the-art domed baseball stadium and more than 5,700 multifamily units with almost a quarter dedicated to affordable housing.

There's also senior living residences, retail space, hotels, and an entertainment venue.

In June, Welch announced he was starting over with the process of redeveloping the site after he canceled the original "requests for proposal" that previous mayor Rick Kriseman established in 2020.

Welch announced he had approved bids by four firms — Hines and the Tampa Bay Rays, 50 Plus 1 Sports, Restoration Associates, and Sugar Hill Community Partners — on Dec. 2, the deadline he established to receive proposals.

The Hines-Rays proposal includes the lowest percentage of affordable housing units, compared to the other plans.

Buwa Binitie, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Dantes Partners, is proposing 850 on-site affordable and workforce housing units and another 600 off-site residences.

He explained that their team’s relatively conservative approach reflects a sober understanding of the shared resources available to finance affordable housing projects.

The team garnered some criticism over the apparent lack of detail surrounding the plans for the 600 off-site units. In lieu of solely new construction, the team plans to post a $15 million contribution to impact residences and fund rent and down payment assistance programs.

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