Southwest Florida Roundup
St. Petersburg is moving forward with its latest effort to redevelop the city’s 86-acre Tropicana Field site — this time with the direct involvement of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mayor Ken Welch, reversing a 2021 decision by former Mayor Rick Kriseman, chose a development team led by the Rays and real estate investment firm Hines to level Tropicana Field and replace it with a 30,000-seat stadium, affordable housing, a new location for the Woodson African American Museum of Florida and a senior living facility, as well as conference, hotel, office, entertainment and retail space. The total size of the development is estimated at 7 million square feet.
The total cost could reach $5.2 billion over the next 20 or more years. The specifics of where all the money will come from have not been determined, but Hines and the Rays are expected to invest a combined $1.8 billion.
The Rays have played home games at Tropicana Field since the 1998 season and have been looking for a new stadium for 15 years or more. The Hines-Rays team promises a new field by 2028.
- The Florida Aquarium has embarked on a $40-million fundraising campaign to pay for a planned expansion. New amenities would include a two-story habitat for puffins, an outdoor pavilion with sea lions and a habitat for African penguins. Darryl Shaw, who is developing the Gas Worx development near the aquarium, was named chairman of the fundraising effort.
- PEI Global Partners, a New York-based investment bank, is opening an office in Tampa’s Water Street development. The bank, which specializes in power, energy and infrastructure transactions, plans to bring 10 jobs.
- St. Petersburg-based BayFirst Financial has chosen Thomas Zernick, the company’s president, to become CEO next January following the retirement of current CEO Anthony Leo. Zernick has worked for BayFirst Financial since 2016.
- Hodges University, which created a dental hygiene bachelor’s degree program last year, has opened a campus dental hygiene clinic for both students and the public.
- A 14-member delegation of physicians from Ukraine visited the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa earlier this year and met with VA doctors to learn more about helping wounded soldiers and civilians recover from war injuries.
- Richard Corcoran, interim president of New College of Florida, will earn an annual salary of $699,000 as the school’s board of trustees searches for a permanent president. Corcoran’s predecessor, Patricia Okker, who was fired by the trustees earlier this year, earned $305,000.
- Construction is underway on a 16-unit apartment building in Immokalee. The 16 apartments are the first of 128 planned by the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance. Rent will be capped at no more than 30% of a family’s household income. “Many farmworkers and other low-income families in Immokalee are currently living in overcrowded and dilapidated shacks and trailers, with holes in the floor and walls, persistent mold, non-working toilets, airconditioning or appliances, and this is simply unacceptable,” says Arol Buntzman, chair of the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance. “Some families are paying 70% or more of their income on rent, leaving little for food, medical services, child care and other services most would consider necessities.” The development is being funded by grants and private donations.
- A $27-million, 88-unit apartment complex is planned for Winter Haven by St. Petersburg developer Blue Sky Communities. The complex, which is projected to open in 2024, will charge rents from $300 a month for families earning 30% of the Winter Haven area’s median income to $1,200 a month for families earning 80% of the area’s median income.
- UPC Insurance, based in St. Petersburg, has sold 91,400 Florida homeowners insurance policies to Slide, a Tampa-based insurance firm. The deal represents $292 million in annual premiums.
- An effort to repair and restore the 1920s-era Bank of the Everglades building in Everglades City has won approval to get $3 million from the federal government. The building, located in eastern Collier County, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once the renovations are completed, the building will house the Everglades Area Visitor Center.
- Virginia Haley, after serving 24 years as president of Visit Sarasota County, will retire at the end of September. Visit Sarasota County hopes to hire her replacement by the end of this year. When Haley started on the job, the county collected about $5.5 million annually in tourist development tax. Last year, the tax generated $40 million.
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