The reports range from constructive to questioning, from dense and technical to broad and frank. And they’re not afraid of harsh criticism.
âFor a public project, it’s disappointing,â one commented.
“The proposal is sometimes redundant, disjointed and has significant problems and errors,” reads another.
“I felt like it was ‘just any old pitch’ for a project,” read another. âFor this site, I was looking for more passion and enthusiasm for the project.
The comments come from evaluations by St. Petersburg city staff on the shortlisted proposals to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site, a project with the potential to transform downtown life.
These âstrengths and weaknessesâ reports provide a window into how city leaders in planning, mobility, infrastructure, finance and economic development view each proposal. With his shortlist of two, Mayor Rick Kriseman will rely on their analysis to narrow down his choice for his Too Favorite sitemap.
“I won’t say that pushes him in one direction, but he appreciates the team’s feedback,” said Brian Caper, the city’s director of public-private partnerships and de facto organizer of the staff committee. âHe absolutely examines them very closely as he seeks to make a decision. “
Ad hoc committees like this often review proposals for urban real estate projects, Caper said. But he doesn’t remember a group as large and focused as this one. The Tropicana Field committee had 26 municipal employees, including CFO Anne Fritz, city architect Raul Quintana, director of real estate and property management Albert Wendler and many development officials.
âThis is really a unique development for the city, and we want to make sure we get it right,â Caper said. âUsually we do this and it’s a meeting and it’s over. Usually, the team will not necessarily meet with the proposers either. But with something of this scale and nature, we really wanted to make sure we were as thorough as possible. “
Committee members reviewed the seven Too much contested proposals. When that group was reduced to four, they met with the developers, asked follow-up questions, and sent Kriseman revised âstrengths and weaknessesâ notes.
There are now two plans left. One dubbed âCreeksideâ was from Midtown Development Miami, which would buy the city’s land and spend up to $ 3.8 billion to develop offices, parks, a hotel and conference center and up to 8,000 homes. The other, from Sugar Hill Community Partners, led by San Francisco developer JMA Ventures, is reportedly asking for $ 837 million in public funding. Its array of parks, offices, homes, hotels and a 1.1 million square foot convention center would cost up to $ 3.1 million.
The committee considered how the plans matched the city’s initial request for proposals, from funding to environmental concerns to the site’s historical significance as a hub of black life in St. Petersburg.
Both teams received questions about their plans to expand and renovate Booker Creek. Several committee members applauded the ambitious designs, but questioned the practicality and sustainability of running a radically renovated new park.
While the Booker Creek renovations would be an innovative urban design feature and add real value to the city’s park system, wrote Rick Smith, Area Manager of Community Redevelopment and Workforce Development work, of the Midtown plan, âits practicality and long-term sustainability must be carefully considered. studied, as soon as possible if it becomes an element that tilts the proposal in its favor.
The two plans also raised questions about their plans to place a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium closer to the center of the site, rather than at one end. Several staff members wrote that the plans would hamper the development and mobility of the city center. Smith wrote that Midtown’s integration of a stadium into the site sounded like “an afterthought,” while Special Projects Director David Goodwin called the Sugar Hill plan “the least favorite of all. proposed stadium locations â.
The criticism left David Carlock, director of development at Sugar Hill, to think his group should have clarified the location of their stadium.
âIn retrospect, a few more pages in the proposal really unpack our rationale and go into great detail about why it makes a lot of sense to put it where it goes, and why frankly it’s really hard to put it in the southwest corner, that probably would have. been helpful, âCarlock said.
Through a spokesperson, the Midtown developers declined to comment on details of the strengths and weaknesses reports.
âThe staff have been very thoughtful in their questions, and they are clearly delving very deep into all of the proposals, both past and present,â said Midtown representative Dean Warhaft.
The finalists had different reactions to a question about community outreach and benefits, especially as it relates to the black community.
Midtown’s proposal was “largely flawed,” Smith wrote, “refers to the sustainability goals of the master plan instead of the social equity lens through which the city views ‘community benefits’ for the project. Goodwin wrote that he offered “no consistent answer” and “seems to be some sort of error.”
The community benefits of Sugar Hill, on the other hand, have been praised for their attention to detail, from specific commitments to the town’s small business program to the development of a ‘historic walk’ and brewery owned by local people. minorities.
âIt was clear to me that this proposal and this team included St. Petersburg – our history and the direction of the future development of this community, the importance of honoring our history while pursuing our future,â Jessica wrote. Eilerman, Director of Business Development at Sugar Hill. plan.
Sugar Hill, however, received questions about its 1.1 million square foot convention center project, by far the largest of all the finalists. Smith expressed concern that the facility would consume $ 550 million in public funding, more than any other part of the plan.
“Is a convention center of the size and capacity designed necessary, and if so, is the location on the border of the Campbell Park neighborhood the best?” Â»Writes Quintana, the architect of the city. “Why build the convention center as a first phase priority if the Trop is still being used for baseball.” Looks like it would create a conflict of uses and activities.
Sugar Hill’s approach, Goodwin wrote, made it seem like she had a “trust us, we’ve done it before.” This is insufficient for a project of this magnitude.
Carlock said his group takes criticism to heart.
âWhat we learned from the discussion with the city is that they rightly focus on a number of practical considerations,â Carlock said.
Overall, the reviews of the two proposals identified more strengths than weaknesses.
âMidtown Creekside’s proposal covers all and every base,â wrote Chris Ballestra, general manager of development coordination. âFrom financial strength to design, from neighborhoods to equity, it’s an excellent proposition. The team members are all experts in their respective fields. Very thoughtful (and) human scale design and layout with built-in flexibility.
Caper wrote that Sugar Hill’s plan demonstrated âa solid understanding of St. Petersburg and the key elements of PD. Strong emphasis on the historical aspects of the site. Several ideas to celebrate cultural diversity. Emphasis on the arts and public gathering space. Very strong.”
There’s a fine line, Caper said, between providing positive feedback and explicitly endorsing a plan. The final decision, he said, should be and will be up to Kriseman, who will then present it to city council for approval.
“We are giving the mayor as much information as possible to enlighten him on his decision to ultimately choose a preferred developer,” Caper said. âThe process was probably a bit longer than usual. It was certainly a more complex process than usual. But for something of this magnitude, it really should be.