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St. Petersburg Community Leaders Share Optimism And Concern For Tropicana Field Site's Future

City of St Petersburg
Tropicana Field was built in the early 1980s after a thriving African American neighborhood, the Gas Plant district, was razed to make way for it.

St. Petersburg city officials are weighing a shortlist of four proposals for the redevelopment on Tropicana Field. And as the process picks up steam, two prominent members of the city's African American community discuss their hopes for and fears about the project.

Tropicana Field has been home to the Tampa Bay Rays since 1998.

But the baseball stadium and surrounding parking lots was once a neighborhood.

On this week’s episode, we focus on the legacy of the Gas Plant neighborhood, and the promises made to its residents.

The neighborhood was the heart of St. Petersburg’s African American community for decades. In the early 80s, it was razed to make room for the ballpark.

Residents were moved, promises were made about economic benefits — but many of them were never kept.

And after years of discussion, the city is getting ready to redevelop the Tropicana Field site.

RELATED: Here Are The Finalists To Redevelop The Tropicana Field Site

St. Pete officials have selected a shortlist of proposals, and public comment begins next Monday, April 5.

Ahead of those meetings, host Bradley George speaks with two women who are prominent members of the city’s African American community and gets their thoughts on the project.

Gwendolyn Reese is president of the African American History Association of St. Petersburg. She was also on a committee that picked the shortlist of redevelopment proposals.

She has lived in St. Pete all her life and she spent part of her childhood living in the Gas Plant area. Through her involvement with the city, she said she’s hopeful that St. Petersburg will get it right when it comes to fulfilling its promise to the neighboring community.

RELATED: Watch: Ahead Of Tropicana Field Public Hearings, Developers Explain Their Plans

Terri Lipsey Scott is more hesitant though.

She arrived in St. Pete in the early 1980s, as the neighborhood was being torn down. She also worked for the city for three decades and is now director of the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.

She says she has “a level of concern” about whether will the city and the developers of the winning proposal will deliver on their plans.

She wants the redevelopment to be well-documented this time around so promises about jobs and economic growth can’t be backtracked.

You can listen to Bradley’s full conversation with Gwendolyn and Terri above by clicking on the “Listen” button. Or you can listen to the WUSF app under “Programs & Podcasts.”

The first public comment meeting will be held virtually while the two others will be held at The Coliseum from 6-8:30 p.m. on April 7 and 8.

Hi there! I’m Dinorah Prevost and I’m the producer of Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show. That basically means that I plan, record and edit the interviews we feature on the show.
Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.