Mayor Baker Recommends Archstone-Madison for Trop Redevelopment

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has recommended that the City Council choose Archstone-Madison's proposal to redevelop the Tropicana Field site should the team's plan to vacate the site for a new $450 million waterfront stadium come to fruition. The plan's financing is reliant on the successful purchase and development of the stadium land, and Baker recommended that the city move forward with the highest-density plan.

While the City Council must ratify the Mayor's suggestion at a meeting next week, it is widely presumed that the ratification is a mere formality. The Rays' plan had originally been sprung in concert with a competing developer's proposal, but the team says they look forward to working with Hines as the process moves forward.

Archstone-Madison's $1.2 billion proposal is slated to be the largest single development in the city's history, and if the plan goes through in full, it will give Pinellas County the retail equivalent of International Plaza in Tampa. The plan also includes gratuitous amounts of condo and apartment units, as well as office space and hotel rooms. Archstone-Madison had offered $65 million for the Tropicana site, about $5 million more than had competing developer Hines.

If development proceeds, ground should be broken on the project in 2010. The land will not be developed in full until about 2023. Aaron Sharockman of the St. Petersburg Times, who covered the decision as it unfolded yesterday, posted an excellent breakdown of what the competing developers had in mind for the site on his Ballpark Frankness blog yesterday.

The next step in the process, after the presumed City Council rubber stamp next week, will be neogtiations for the final development agreement. The city would like to come to a deal on that by August 1st.

Though Archstone-Madison had the higher bid of $65 million for the land, the offer is still about $5 million below the total it would take to pay off the debt completely on Tropicana Field. The Rays were relying on $70 million from the buyer to pay that portion of the deal off. It remains unclear how the team will account for the missing $5 million.

Also, while Archstone-Madison pledges to put forth $5 million to demolish Tropicana Field, it will not pay for any environmental mitigation required on the site. Further, it will not guarantee the tax revenues to be garnered from the redevelopment project, tax revenues that are crucial to the team's financing plan. The proposal is projected to generate $7.5 million a year in taxes for the City of St. Petersburg when fully completed, but in a city fresh off the failed developmental bungle known as Bay Plaza in the 1990s, the lack of guaranteed revenue is concerning.

TIMES PARKING SURVEY:

The St. Petersburg Times dispatched three reporters to walk three different routes to the proposed Al Lang Stadium site from three parking hubs suggested by the Rays. The Times then had those reporters chronicle the journey along the route. It made for an interesting read; more than anything else it showcased downtown stores and restaurants. Be sure to check out the web special on the story if it so interests you. +1 for any reader that notices how a liquor store was mentioned as a place that Rays fans might enjoy.

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