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Plans revealed for redevelopment of Rays preferred Ybor stadium site

There is no stadium in the current plans. But plans can change.

When the Tampa Bay Rays finally received permission to search for a new stadium site in Hillsborough County, the team selected a sparsely developed area between Channelside and Ybor City.

With a good, central site chosen, the Rays then put their faith in the local business community and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan to assemble the parcels of land on the team’s behalf.

After three years, efforts to assemble the land required for a new stadium failed, and the key players were well short of raising the needed $970 million. It seems that neither the business leaders nor the County Commissioner actually had the juice to pull off this complex and expensive deal.

The team’s seemingly passive approach to coalition building, which they may have thought would help them cultivate friends across the Bay, did not panned out. Accordingly, the Rays terminated their negotiating window for a new ballpark, effectively ensuring that they would remain at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season.

Now, less than three years later, it would appear that not only have the developers acquired the necessary land for the aforementioned ballpark — but they are moving on, without the Rays.

In a 50-page design guideline document, developer Darryl Shaw has released a vision for the corridor bridging downtown Tampa to Ybor City, naming the new district “Gas Worx” — an odd twist of fate, given that Tropicana Field rests on the demolished historically Black neighborhood called the Gas Plant District.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, now that the parcels have been assembled, Darryl Shaw is ready to begin developing:

“The goal is to create one of the great neighborhoods in the United States in the (Ybor City) historic district,” Shaw said. “Today, it’s still more perceived as an entertainment district. Our thought is to create a place where you have thousands of people living as the primary focus, and then these folks hopefully will have the opportunity to work in the district.”

Gas Worx — a “working name,” Shaw said, that nods to the site’s history as an old Peoples Gas storage facility — could include 500,000 square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of retail to go with that cluster of condos and apartments.

What it doesn’t include — yet — is space for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium, should the team again explore relocating to Ybor from St. Petersburg.

Parcels E2-E7 on the map above represent the one-time stadium site.

A few years ago, the Gas Worx site was considered the favored spot for a Hillsborough County ballpark. But if the Rays want to play, Shaw said he’ll make room.

“We very much hope that it will happen,” Shaw said. “I’ve always maintained that this development is for Ybor, and the Rays coming is not essential for the development to go forward. So the plan you see is probably what we will build — unless the Rays come, and then we would re-evaluate.”

There are some oddities in the overall proposal. Currently there appears to be no mention of a hotel to help anchor the district, and the trees in the design are portrayed as palm trees, as opposed to trees with shade coverage that are preferred in Tampa. But keep in mind that these renderings are quite preliminary.

Nevertheless, the Gas Worx proposal appears to offer a clear vision for how to bridge the downtown district to Ybor City, with well-balanced mixed use developments.

In a statement, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor affirmed the project for it’s ability to not only connect geographic areas of Tampa, but its ability to connect individuals across economic backgrounds:

“It’s an incredibly exciting project that I hope will provide housing and services for a range of income levels and improve the connection between our neighborhoods.”

Tampa City Council will hear the rezoning request for this site on November 18.