The group believes Sugar Hill Community Partners will revitalize the Black neighborhood that was displaced when the Trop was first built.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A group of local Black faith leaders gathered in St. Petersburg on Thursday to put their support behind the developer they believe will best revitalize the Tropicana Field site.
According to Pastor Brian Brown, Sugar Hill Community Partners is “the right and only choice” of a developer to support the Black community that was negatively affected by Tropicana Field and create opportunities for all St. Pete residents — not just those who can afford to keep up.
That starts with honoring the Black neighborhood that was displaced when the Trop was first built in the 1980s.
Rev. Wayne Thompson spoke about his experience growing up in the Gas Plant neighborhood.
“The Gas Plant is not an area that was neglected, it was a vital area, a viable area and a vibrant area,” he said.
Thompson explained that the residents were told the new development would bring in business and help the Black community, but that never happened. And, according to the reverend, the new Tropicana site redevelopment is a chance for the city to finally fulfill those broken promises.
“Now, we come to a place in time where perhaps we can say to this community that the city will live out its promise,” Thompson said. “We don’t stay in the back, we move forward to the future to say that this can be done.”
Bishop Manuel L. Sykes spoke about how St. Pete’s Black community is being left behind by the city’s current rapid growth — another reason, he says, Sugar Hill is the right choice for this project.
“The land that you’re standing on right now is land that was taken by every means necessary and if something is not done, there will be a total eradication of the present and the history of African Americans in this very spot,” he said.
Sykes highlighted the fact that the people who grew up in the Gas Plant neighborhood are still alive and are expecting to “be connected with all of the blessings, all of the opportunities and resources in Downton St. Petersburg.”
One of those residents is St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch, who made history this year when he was sworn in as the city’s first Black mayor.
The pastors said they support Welch and believe he will make the right decision in choosing a development plan that will provide affordable housing, community and business opportunities.
The pastors’ endorsement of Sugar Hill notably differs from the developer choice former St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman made when he was in office.
Back in December, then-Mayor Kriseman announced that Midtown Development was selected to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site.
“We will honor our past while we pursue our future,” Kriseman said at the time. “That future includes a development that provides jobs, mixed-income housing, office space, entertainment, and emphasis on the creek, the natural environment, and the Pinellas Trail.”
And when Welch took office he made it clear that the Tropicana Field site redevelopment was a high priority. He also said he’s demanding equity for the displaced Gas Plant neighborhood in any redevelopment plan.
When it comes to a decision between the site developers — Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners — Welch said in April that he hopes to have made a decision by June 30.
You can watch the pastors’ full press conference below.
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