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Welch touts progress in St. Petersburg's Gas Plant District during State of the City address

Man in a suit speaks at a podium in front of two flags and ferns. A sign language interpreter stands on the right. He is underneath a large screen showing a profile view of him and a packed audience.
Meghan Bowman
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks to a packed house at the Palladium Theatre on Jan. 30. In his annual State of the City address he spoke about inclusive progress happening in the city, along with plans for the Historic Gas Plant District.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch provided a brief update on the redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District and the new baseball stadium at the annual State of the City address on Tuesday.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch touted the inclusive progress he said the city has made during his tenure while giving the State of the City address on Tuesday.

The Palladium Theatre was packed for Welch's address and included descendants of the Historic Gas Plant District.

He gave a brief update on the redevelopment of the 86-acre-site, one of the city's largest and most expensive endeavors.

"We're working diligently with City Council (and) with our partners with the Hines-Rays group in Pinellas County to finalize agreements that will bring this 40-year-saga of the historic gas plant and the future of the Rays to a positive conclusion," Welch said.

He added the team has hit all major milestones in the district since announcing the Hines-Rays partnership at last year's State of the City address.

The city is working to finalize the more than 30-year-old promises made to residents of that community, he said.

"This agreement will be a fulfillment of those promises and a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand economic opportunity for all," Welch said. "I've lived this saga, and we've literally waited decades to be in this position and we've never been this close."

The over $6 billion investment to transform the area near Tropicana Field will include retail space, about 1,200 affordable and workforce housing units, and a concert venue — along with the new $1.3 billion Tampa Bay Rays stadium.

An impact report by the city details more about the Gas Plant District's redevelopment. A process Welch called "a long journey," saying he was 19 years old when the discussions began.

The address also included the city's gains made in Welch's five "Pillars of Progress" — education and youth opportunities, equitable development, health and safety, affordable housing, and infrastructure.

"We respect and recognize the lived history and experience of the residents of our city," he said. "We will not ignore, nor recreate our history."

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.