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St. Petersburg City Council I am concerned.

Guest Written by Karyn Mueller

Commercial Construction Engineer, former CBAC Advisory Council Member


As a proud resident of the Campbell Park neighborhood, I have written to the St. Petersburg City Council expressing my deep concern regarding the proposed Rays/Hines development. My connection to St. Petersburg runs deep, and I am invested in securing a future that benefits all citizens across our diverse neighborhoods.


With a background that I believe demonstrates relevant experience, I feel compelled to voice my reservations about the fairness of this proposal and the veracity of the promises it entails. It is my firm belief that the current proposal falls short of equitable standards, and the purported benefits do not align with the realities presented in the deal. As such, I urge you to carefully consider the implications of this development on our community's well-being and future prospects.

 

Date: March 22, 2024

To: Saint Petersburg City Council

Re: Rays/Hines Historic Gas Plant Redevelopment

From: Karyn Mueller, PE, LEED AP


Dear Saint Petersburg Council Members,


I recently served on the Community Benefits Advisory Council for the Historic Gas Plant District Redevelopment and am licensed as a Professional Engineer in Florida with 20 years of experience working in commercial construction as well as engineering for both private and public firms.


After serving on the Community Benefits Advisory Council, I stand by my NO vote that the community benefits are grossly inadequate compared to the amount of public investment in the form of publicly owned land and tax subsidies for a baseball stadium.

I’m writing you to express serious concerns I have with the current development terms for the stadium and Gas Plant district and have included letters from other Southside neighbors including Bartlett Park, Campbell Park, Childs Park, Palmetto Park and Harbordale. Neighbors from other Southside neighborhoods who are also concerned about this project will be provided at the next council meeting.


The following are promises that have made about this project that are not true.


Number One:

The Mayor has stated that the project will not be paid for with tax dollars.


This is not true. The current stadium proposal is going to cost city taxpayers $704 million. The $287 million in city funds for the stadium as well as the $130 million contribution toward infrastructure for the development of the gas plant will be bonded resulting in total cost of $704 million. The bonds will be paid out of the Intown CRA. The Intown CRA includes some of the most valuable real estate in the City of Saint Petersburg including all the high rises on Central Ave and Beach Drive. 50% of the property taxes from these buildings will be diverted into paying back the bonds for the stadium. For 30 years.


The services like fire and police and schools that the residents of these buildings pay for with their taxes will be underfunded as half the property taxes are siphoned off, leaving a hole that other taxpayers will have to make up. These higher property taxes will be passed on to future home owners and to renters, making the cost of housing that much more expensive. All while providing a recreational amenity that won’t be used by the majority of the taxpayers. The CRA should not be extended in 2032 for a stadium since downtown is no longer blighted.


Number Two:

The promise that the $50 million in intentional equity is a sufficient return on the public investment.


The public subsidy will cost taxpayers over $1.2 billion when considering the cost of bonding the $287 million, the $463 million in lost property taxes for the land the stadium will sit on as well as the $100 million value of the land. $50 million is only 4% of the amount of public funds and public owned land the tax payers are contributing to Rays/Hines. This doesn’t even take into consideration of the discount of 100’s of millions of dollars on the 60 acres we are giving to the Rays/Hines.


Number Three:

The promise that the Tampa Bay Rays care about the City of Saint Petersburg


Rays/Hines have repeatedly said that they would not make any changes to the current draft development terms. They say if they have to improve any one aspect of the deal, they have to take it out of something else. The value of the team to the City of St Petersburg is the branding of the city. Saint Petersburg residents will be the ones paying for the stadium. When the Rays were asked to consider changing the name of the team, they didn’t even consider the idea and flat out just said they would just leave. The Rays will not make any concessions or improvements to the current draft development terms and constantly threaten to leave.


Number Four:

The promise that 1200 Affordable housing units will be built.


The developer can currently pay $25,000/unit to get out of building the affordable housing. Since the cost of building an affordable housing unit is anywhere from $200,000-$300,000, the developer will do the least expensive thing which is to not build it at all. It’s more profitable to build other types of real estate and as a for profit developer, they will build the most profitable real estate.


The Community Benefits Advisory Council recommended increasing the penalty to $150,000/unit. However, Rays/Hines attended the meeting and directly stated that they would not make any changes to the current development agreement without taking away something else.


Number Five:

The promise that the African American museum will be built.


Currently only $10 million will be contributed toward the construction of the Carter G Woodson Museum. With a cost of approximately $30 to $40 million, the remainder of the museum’s cost will have to be raised with fund raising. If the City is contributing $1.2 Billion to the Rays for a stadium, they should fund the entire cost of the museum.


Number Six:

The promise that Booker Music Hall will be built with this project.


Brian Auld told Robin Davidov that they were not building the Booker Music Hall. He said they didn’t have to build anything.


Number Seven:

The promise that a Convention Center will be built.


City Administration has confirmed that there will be convention meeting space within a future hotel, there will not be a convention center.


Number Eight:

The promise that this will be good for Campbell Park


The previous development by Midtown had an expansive platform over 275 connecting the stadium district to Campbell Park. The current development from Rays/Hines includes the bare minimum with a narrow pedestrian bridge that isn’t any better than the current catwalk we already have. Right now, it is challenging to use the bridge when there are other pedestrians going the other direction. The capacity of the bridge needs to be expanded to accommodate all the additional pedestrian and bicycle traffic.


Previously Midtown Development offered $500,000 toward studying the conversion of 275 into a boulevard. The current development team said that was out of their scope and they wouldn’t be funding any efforts toward lowering the boulevard.


This project is not beneficial to Southside residents. We are separated by the wall of 275 from the rest of the city. We continue to be underserved by the city and there has been no change to this by a new administration.


Number Nine:

The promise that this time it will be different.


My friend Sierra Clark who lived in Laurel Park and is the vice president of Childs Park said the following: “To know you are asking residents and descendants to accept the same treatment… Who is the insane one? You or Them? In reference to the definition of insanity.” The administration implies “This time it will be different.” This is a repeat of history. Stop the repeat of injustice before it is too late.


Sincerely,


Karyn Mueller


Campell Park Neighborhood resident

Co-President with Sierra Clark and our initiative Southside Community Association of St Pete






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