St. Pete leaders continue gathering input on Tropicana Field site redevelopment

The city of St. Petersburg held the second of three community meetings designed to get input on how the Tropicana Field site should be redeveloped.

"We all know the history of communities being uprooted, and disenfranchised, and promises being made that never materialized," said Dr. Charee Howard, who is planning to open an office in south St. Pete.

Her aunt lived in segregated apartment buildings that were razed in 1988 to make way for the Trop. She came to the second of three community input meetings to insist that the city right wrongs with what is built, and for whom.

"Some of us have a legacy we can build upon," she said. "But when yours is uprooted for capital, for gain, you are pushed further back."

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The city is considering a mishmash of uses in hopes of integrating what goes on the 86-acre site with the rest of the city. Mayor Ken Welch scrapped plans selected by then-Mayor Rick Kriseman, but still promises a mix of housing, stores, art, jobs and a ballpark just in case the Tampa Bay Rays stay in St. Pete.

"We sense an amazing opportunity to do good for our community," said St. Pete Deputy Mayor Stephanie Owes. "We certainly want closure on whether the Rays will remain in St Pete."

Mayor Welch insists the city is again the front-runner for the Rays choice, as opposed to Tampa. For inspiration, around the St. Pete College meeting room, the city put up examples of existing ballpark districts in other cities, including Washington, Chicago and San Francisco.

Residents offered feedback on 26 questions. Chenavia Smith of "Raise the Bar St. Pete" is urging the city to be mindful when choosing the workers that will build whatever is chosen.

"We can be super creative," she said. "We have artists in the room, people from all backgrounds to really shape that space, to really make it futuristic, and something that'll be a shining point."

Discussions between the Rays and the city are ongoing. The third and final meeting is Thursday, July 28 at USF St. Pete.

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