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Community weighs in on historic St. Pete redevelopment plan

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Posted at 10:12 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 23:24:03-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When it comes to revamping the Historic Gas Plant District in St. Petersburg city leaders are looking to others that have done it before, but most importantly they're also looking to the people themselves.

And at a public input meeting Tuesday, it became clear that many in the community feel that this project will give St. Petersburg a chance to right a historic wrong. They're people, like Ray Tampa, who says many black and brown families had to leave the area to make room for Tropicana Field.

"Born and raised right here in St. Petersburg," Tampa said, "Well, it was like a lot of families being displaced that didn't want to be displaced."

Betty Hayward is also from the area. And she and her daughter, Sofie Forte, tell ABC Action News that now people are being forced to leave because of housing costs.

"You know we talk about the rent and what it costs for people. They don't have no choice but to move," said Forte.

To fix things, these folks tell us they want to see a sense of community restored to the area—by offering jobs and job placement, local amenities, and above all else housing.

"Most importantly [we need] affordable housing," said Tampa.

Mayor Ken Welch is also from the St. Pete area. When it comes to his vision for the 86-acre development he wants to see a mix of entertainment and economic opportunities. And he says housing is also top of mind.

"You know we want the new development, the market rate and luxury is great, but for the folks who are here and make our city work and for retirees who have invested and can't afford those big increases we need to be intentional about getting affordable housing developed and keeping it affordable long-term," he said.

Mayor Welch says the city be holding two more of these meetings. After that, he's asking that his staff put a plan on his desk by mid-August.

Another key part of this major development includes Tropicana Field—which is currently home to Tampa Bay Rays, at least until 2027 when the team's current lease runs out.

And though several suggestions for a new home have been thrown out in the past so far none of them have stuck.

With time ticking, we wanted to know how certain Mayor Welch was that he could get the team and a new stadium locked in as part of the proposed redevelopment plan.

He told ABC Action News that he feels "pretty good" about the conversations he's had with the Rays so far and pointed to other metro areas as examples of what St. Pete could be.

"As we saw from Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and D.C. It can be made part of a vibrant downtown that meets a lot of needs and really can be a year-round asset to the whole community."

When it comes to the overall redevelopment plan, Mayor Welch says he wants to have something finalized by the end of the year.