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Is the Rays/Hines deal reasonable, logical, fiscally responsible?


My name is Ron Diner, a concerned Pinellas County citizen. On January 4, 2024, I spoke to the St. Petersburg City Council.


Here is what I said: 


I have spent a significant portion of my career analyzing and negotiating real estate deals, contributing to the development of affordable housing nationwide.  I have also learned about our community needs having founded and then engaged with Lunch Pals, Pinellas County Schools lunch time mentoring program, having served on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs, and having been a mentor for the last 7 years at Mount Vernon E.S. 


I want to share a perspective based on a commitment to reason, logic, and fiscal responsibility – advocating for a renegotiated deal or an alternative plan, for the Gas Plant site - that better aligns with our city's best interests and the needs of our citizens. 

First, we have a great opportunity.  The Gas Plant site is potentially the largest piece of developable property in a rapidly growing market. What makes this opportunity unique is that the area is already activated, with existing development providing a solid foundation – acting as the anchor. While baseball for the Tampa Bay area is desirable, it is not the linchpin for the success of this property. 


Second, a $1.6 billion cost to St. Petersburg taxpayers (and another $808 million cost to Pinellas County) causes major concerns.  We believe the land is being sold for as much as $700 million under value, and the loan the city is taking out for infrastructure and part of the stadium is a hefty $700 million, including interest, without sharing in any of the revenue from the stadium. And we are forsaking $411 in real estate taxes over 30 years on the value of a new stadium property. We're looking at a missed opportunity to channel this $1.6 billion into community initiatives, storm-water management, education, and more affordable housing. 


The proposal also jeopardizes our city's ability to borrow funds for future emergencies.  


Also consider the impact on our city's quality of life. The increased traffic and parking congestion in the Gas Plant area from baseball could hinder the development of the rest of the site and prove burdensome to residents and businesses already in the area. The relocation of the Atlanta stadium due to traffic congestion should serve as a cautionary tale. 


Finally, the voice of the citizens, as expressed through surveys, cannot be ignored. An overwhelming 90% of 470 votes on Nextdoor suggest that the citizens should decide, and 73% of 200 votes express dissatisfaction with the current deal. 


In conclusion, we think the facts compel us to renegotiate a better deal or consider an alternative development plan for the Gas Plant site. 


That better serves our community and addresses our pressing needs.  

And that stands up to the scrutiny of fiscal responsibility and community well-being.  

  

We must distinguish between the idealized benefits of baseball and the tangible realities before us. 


Thank you.  

Related Reading:


I am sure you are aware that Tom Mullins and I recently shared our perspective in the Tampa Bay Times Op-Ed, St. Pete's Proposed Rays Stadium Deal is a Strikeout for the City.


Our detailed analysis is available to read and download on No Home Run: The Rays Hines Proposal for the 86 Acre Gas Plant Site is a $2.4 Billion Error.



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