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City seeks developer ideas

By AARON SHAROCKMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 18, 2008

This is one developer's vision for the Tropicana Field site looking west along Third Avenue S.
[Tampa Bay Rays]

ST. PETERSBURG - The City Council on Thursday agreed 7-1 to ask developers for proposals to purchase and redevelop Tropicana Field and its adjacent parking lots.

The vote is the first official step toward a possible November referendum on the Tampa Bay Rays' broader $1-billion stadium and redevelopment plan. But many hurdles and much doubt about the plan remains.

What does Thursday's vote mean?

The city today will issue a nationwide request for proposals for the 86-acre Tropicana site.

The request includes two key caveats: The city does not have to accept any proposal for the site, and any proposal it does accept can move forward only if voters approve plans for a new Rays' stadium at Al Lang Field.

Who voted no? And why?

Council member Herb Polson was the lone member to object. In comments to his colleagues, he said development negotiations were moving too fast.

"We often hear haste makes waste," Polson said. "When you proceed at something at lightning speed, you make errors."

Why didn't the council take longer?

The city says its attempting to stick to the Rays' suggested timetable, which calls for a November referendum. Mayor Rick Baker said he preferred to have more time after developer proposals have been submitted than before.

For the Rays, why November?

The team says the cost of a new stadium, $450-million, is based on the notion of breaking ground in early 2009. Also, the team says a November election in a presidential year will draw the most possible voters.

What did the other council members have to say?

No one committed to support the project Thursday.

"To support the (request for proposals) is to support it for the gathering of information," said council member Jim Kennedy, articulating the popular view among his colleagues.

What can developers consider putting in place of Tropicana Field?

The city is leaving that up to them. There are certain elements, however, the city would like to see. Tops on the city's list: Parkland, affordable housing, a transportation hub and unique retail options.

Is the city obligated to award the bid to the developer willing to pay the most?

No, says senior economic development administrator Rick Mussett. The city will be able to evaluate the proposals based on price and design.

It also will be able to negotiate details with whatever developer it selects, if it decides to select one at all.

When are the responses due from developers?

Proposal are due in 60 days, on March 18.

When can the public comment on the process?

The city scheduled three public hearings on the Rays' stadium and redevelopment proposal - Feb. 21, April 10 and May 22. All three sessions begin at 6 p.m.

[Last modified January 17, 2008, 23:58:03]

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