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Unicorp and Wendover among the seven groups bidding to redevelop St. Pete’s Tropicana Field site (updated)

Unicorp envisions an open-air baseball stadium to anchor the infill development of Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg.
Unicorp envisions an open-air baseball stadium to anchor the infill development of Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg. (Zyscovich Architects)

Orlando’s Unicorp National Development and Wendover Housing Partners are among the seven companies bidding for the right to redevelop the Tropicana Field site in downtown St. Petersburg.

Unicorp is proposing a $643 million mixed-use district with thousands of apartments, offices, hotels, a college campus and new open-air baseball stadium. The Wendover bid includes many of the same features, but focuses on its strength as a developer and operator of affordable housing, noting that 58% of the proposed 2,196 housing units would feature accessible or below-market rents.

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The city published a Request for Proposals in 2019 for the 86-acre site and opened eight bids on Jan. 15. All but one were accepted and posted on its website Tuesday afternoon. Miami-based Midtown Development Group, which owns the 22-acre Orlando Sentinel property, was also among the bidders.

The plan highlights downtown St. Pete's Booker Creek, making it a focal point of the redevelopment of land around the stadium.
The plan highlights downtown St. Pete's Booker Creek, making it a focal point of the redevelopment of land around the stadium. (Zyscovich Architects)

Unicorp President Chuck Whittall told GrowthSpotter he submitted a bid because the Tropicana Field site presented a rare opportunity to acquire an 86-acre site in the heart of an established urban district.

“It’s a great market, the St. Pete market’s growing tremendously,” he said.

Whittall said he engaged Zyscovich Architects as master planner and architect to create two proposals — one with a new, smaller stadium and one with no stadium — as required by the city. The American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays’ lease on the existing domed stadium expires in 2027.

Whittall said Unicorp would lead most of the residential development, but would likely partner with other developers for the affordable housing units and the office construction. The bid names Pinnacle as the affordable housing partner.

Wendover Housing proposes nearly 2,200 residential units, including these mixed-use mid-rise buildings along 16th Street in St. Petersburg.
Wendover Housing proposes nearly 2,200 residential units, including these mixed-use mid-rise buildings along 16th Street in St. Petersburg. (Eleven18 Architecture)

“We think we came up with a great plan,” he said. “We did not try to maximize density. We tried to maximize community aspects and I think we did a good job at it.”

The Wendover design team includes Eleven18 Architecture, NAK Design Strategies, Business Park Development Corporation, Kissinger Campo, and George F. Young engineering. The bid represents a $2.4 billion total investment, which includes up to $800 million for a new stadium with retail.

“If the City commits to prioritizing accessible housing options on this redevelopment site, then Wendover Housing Partners is the ideal master developer for you,” Real Estate Director Ryan von Weller wrote in his letter.

All of the bidders focused on development along St. Pete's Booker Creek. This vision from Midtown Development creates multi-level terraces and pedestrian crossings over the waterway. Many of the retail buildings have green roofs.
All of the bidders focused on development along St. Pete's Booker Creek. This vision from Midtown Development creates multi-level terraces and pedestrian crossings over the waterway. Many of the retail buildings have green roofs. (Midtown Development)

The Midtown proposal rings in at over $3.75 billion over 25 years, not including the cost of a new stadium or the estimated $168 million budget for site development and infrastructure. The City of St. Petersburg has dedicated a minimum of $75 million for infrastructure development of the site.

The Midtown document also offers a glimpse of master developer Alex Vadia’s plans for the Midtown Orlando project. It’s included as a reference project, noting that the developer is spending $1 million to masterplan the site, a portion of which is being cleared for a future $75 million development.

Midtown has teamed up with Warhaft Group, Pinstripe Design and Advisory Group; and it has the endorsement of the Pinellas County Urban League.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article was published on Jan. 15, 2021. It has been updated with additional information on published bids.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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