St. Petersburg, Florida wants to revitalize 85-acre site…with or without stadium

More than a dozen consultants want a chance to help the City of St. Petersburg, Florida redevelop Tropicana Field — with or without the Tampa Bay Rays.

15 consultants from cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, and closer to home, from Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg, had responded to a request for qualifications from firms interested in developing a master plan for the 85-acre property.

The firm that gets the job will participate in what city officials say will be a “once in a generation chance to create new opportunities for growth and economic development.

Note from Storm: I happen to be in St. Pete as I write this. My wife and I are taking a week’s vacation in the Tampa Bay area after the keynote I just delivered at a regional sustainability conference put on by the City of Tallahassee. As we see with this article, St. Pete is joining the long, long list of cities who are realizing they were sold a bill of goods when the professional sports franchise came to town.

While it’s not impossible for a stadium to boost an area, it has to be part of a comprehensive strategy. It’s almost impossible for a venue that’s only active a few dozen times a year to support retailers and restaurants: how are they supposed to survive between events?

Unfortunately, a stadium is the kind of big, high-media-profile projects that weak mayors fall for time and again. I wish Mayor Rick Kriseman, who inherited this mess, the best of luck in correcting it.

Likewise, any chance this property has of being truly revitalized will likely depend on a strategy that reaches far beyond its 85 acres. That’s the danger of basing its future on proposals from consultants who might limit their focus to the site itself.

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