Watch: Tropicana Field development bidders share video visions of St. Petersburg

Jay Cridlin and Josh Solomon, Tampa Bay Times
·3 min read

The four redevelopment teams hoping to reimagine St. Petersburg’s 86-acre Tropicana Field site are starting to sharpen their pitches to the public.

The city has collected sleek video pitches from each developer that will be used during the public comment phase of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision process, which starts April 5.

The five-minute videos were not part of the city’s original bid request when they asked developers to submit their visions for an expansive, multi-use city-within-city on the property by mid January; the four developers were only asked to provide them within the last two weeks, after the shortlist of proposals was trimmed from seven to four.

But they offer fresh perspectives on each project, from aerial flyover renderings and snapshots of the city to testimonials from local leaders, business owners and architects.

A video created by a group called Sugar Hill Community Partners, led by San Francisco developer JMA Ventures, features testimonials from the owners of local businesses like O’Berry Succulents and the Body Electric Yoga Company, and groups like the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and NAACP.

The video leans into the concepts of connectivity, both in terms of transportation mobility and reconnecting the site to its past as a hub of Black life in St. Petersburg.

“Sugar Hill was able to connect the dots, and not just connect the dots, but connect the history behind the dots that truly made up the full spectrum of what that project was,” Esther Eugene, president of the NAACP’s St. Petersburg branch, said in the Sugar Hill video.

Miami’s Midtown Development had the Rev. Watson Haynes, president and CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League CEO, narrate its video. Haynes grew up on the Tropicana Field site and praised Midtown for bringing his group in as a partner on the project, which features interconnected greenways linking disparate parts of the city.

“I have a vested interest in terms of what’s going to happen at Tropicana Field,” Haynes said in the video. “To be involved in this project is more than just me. It’s an entire family. It’s an entire community that I lived with and had to give up in order for Tropicana to happen. Midtown proved to have commitment and genuine concern for the project.”

A video submitted by local investment group Third Lake Partners and Atlanta developers Portman Holdings and Portman Residential laid out part of the timeline and phasing for its vision, but also touched on the city’s complex racial history and present as an arts destination.

“I think we offer the best of both worlds,” Hunter Richardson, Portman Holdings’s executive vice president of development, said in the video. “Because we do office, hotels and residential, we have the ability to address all the product types, as opposed to having to bring in third-party partners to do any of that. So we offer one-stop shopping ... and a very, very strong local presence.”

A video from Orlando’s Unicorp National Developments compared its proposed “Petersburg Park” to parks in London, New York and Chicago. Its expansive greenspaces would include one designed to replace a partially torn-down Interstate 175, which developer Chuck Whittall said continues to divide the city.

“It’ll look like it was always planned to be part of the community,” Whittall said in the video. “And that’s really what our goal is. It’s not that we just dropped something there. (It’s) that it was something that was planed to be a nucleus for the community all along.”

The city will host a virtual public meeting on the four proposals on April 5, with in-person meetings scheduled for April 7 and 8. According to the city’s timeline, Kriseman could select a developer as early as May or June.