Welch announces new Rays-inclusive RFP for redevelopment of Trop site

Welch announces new Rays-inclusive RFP for redevelopment of Trop site

Exterior of Tropicana Field

In a surprise move, St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch announced today that the city is canceling the current RFP (request for proposals) for the Tropicana Field site, and launching a new RFP for the 86-acre Historic Gas Plant District and Tropicana Field property. Welch cited changing needs and a new environment post-covid, along with the dire need for affordable housing in the area.

Perhaps the biggest change is that the city will now ask for every proposal to include a new on-site stadium, as Welch said this presents an opportunity to bring certainty to long term plans for the Rays. The Tampa Bay Rays have not announced plans for when their lease at Tropicana Field runs out in 2027, but Welch appeared to be optimistic they will stay in St. Pete and expressed a desire to include the organization and its vision in the redevelopment. Previously, redevelopment of the site had come down to two finalists, Midtown and Sugar Hill, but the new RFP will open proposals to any developers, even including the Tampa Bay Rays themselves.

“I am optimistic that we will choose that right path,” Welch said. “One that will bring jobs, equitable and diverse business opportunities, meet our need for housing, meeting space and innovative economic drivers, and support a state-of-the-art home for the Rays for decades to come.”

At her own press conference, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said today that she and Welch had given the Rays a June 30th deadline to give either city an indication of where they’d like to be and what they want in their new stadium. In that same press conference, she said the proposed Ybor City site is highly unlikely, while Welch in his press conference only mentioned the current Tropicana property as a potential location.

“We need certainty on where the Rays want to be on this site and what their vision is,” he said.

Welch seeks greater equity, inclusive progress for Gas Plant District

The change to the new RFP is two-fold, as it places a stronger emphasis on Gas Plant District redevelopment in addition to proposing a permanent home for the Rays. Welch’s current goal is for the new RFP to be released in August, and he said the city will hold a series of community outreach events both before and after as a way to solicit citizen feedback. He hopes to have a developer selected by the end of the year.

In the announcement, Welch listed the following as “new conditions that must be considered,”

  • The pandemic has changed the way we work and has affected the potential need for office space.
  • The cost of rental housing and home ownership has skyrocketed, bringing higher priority to the need for affordable and workforce housing.
  • Supply chain and labor issues are impacting the cost of capital projects.
  • The need for intentional equity and equitable development is highlighted by results of the city’s Disparity Study and Structural Racism report completed after the issuance of the original RFP.
  • The community’s desire for equity is reflected in the Community Benefits model adopted by City Council last year.

Welch said he expects the new RFP process to be completed “relatively quick” as he emphasized that this plan isn’t starting from scratch, but rather building upon the previous RFP.

Sugar Hill and Midtown are both expected to re-apply, and the city hopes to have a final selection by the end of the year. Welch said the new RFP is not an indictment on either of the two previous finalists, but rather is a recognition of new needs, current economic trends, and changing workforce demands. More information can be found through the city at stpete.org/gasplant.

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