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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

Neighborhood leaders push back on the Tropicana Field redevelopment plan as a vote nears

A man stands at a podium with a group gathered behind him on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall.
Gabriella Paul
Jabaar Edmond, who serves as neighborhood association president of Childs Park, speaks during a press conference on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall. He criticized the aspects of the proposed redevelopment plan that purports to pay respect and homage to former Gas Plant residents without paying them reparations.

Several community and advocacy groups gathered on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall to voice concerns on the redevelopment plan nearing final approval by local officials.

Members of some neighborhoods surrounding Tropicana Field are speaking out against plans to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District and build a new baseball stadium.

On Thursday, several community and advocacy groups gathered on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall to voice concerns, including the Sierra Club, Faith in Florida, No Home Run, the Campbell Park Neighborhood Association and Childs Park Neighborhood Association.

Brian Peret, who serves as president of Campbell Park's neighborhood association, said that already important community leaders have been left out of conversations.

He said residents of the historically Black neighborhoods and others like Melrose-Mercy, Thirteenth Street Heights, Lake Maggiore Shores and Childs Park don't feel heard by the decision makers of the big-dollar proposal that would ultimately develop their backyards.

READ MORE: St. Petersburg city officials will finally get their say on a proposed Rays stadium

"I know those neighborhood leaders, and as I speak amongst them, we do not yet feel included," Peret said. "I say yet, because I think there's still an opportunity here."

The St. Petersburg City Council held its first workshop to review the proposed redevelopment plan last week, nearly eight months after the deal was first drawn.

The $6.5 billion redevelopment plan still needs the final approval of leaders in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

On Thursday, Peret voiced concerns about how the city plans to ensure the equitable implementation of the sweeping new redevelopment plan, which is estimated to take up to 30 years to complete.

Several community and advocacy groups gathered on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall.
Gabriella Paul
Several community and advocacy groups gathered on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall on May 16 to voice concerns about the proposed redevelopment plan for Tropicana Field and the surrounding Historic Gas Plant District. Banners and posters held by community members read: "Fix the deal," and "Strike a better deal."

The plan for the Historic Gas Plant District promises affordable housing, restaurants, hotels and a new African American history museum on around 65 acres of public land that would be sold at a discount to the Hines development group.

Peret said he would like to see dedicated city-led programs to connect his neighbors in Campbell Park with the proposed affordable housing and job creation opportunities.

There's also concerns over how the development will meaningfully reconnect Campbell Park to the Historic Gas Plant District, which is now separated from the development by I-175.

"I come here and I stand here with a spirit of collaboration. I think there's an opportunity here for the city to win for the corporate entities to win and most importantly, for my neighbors to win," Peret said.

Childs Park neighborhood association president Jabaar Edmond echoed his sentiments in calling for "intentional equity."

“There’s a lot of talk about paying respect and homage to the historical Gas Plant District, but what about paying dividends?” Edmonds asked.

Even as the redevelopment nears final approval by city and county leaders, Edmonds said it's reasonable to ask why the land shouldn't be sold by the City of St. Petersburg to pay reparations to surviving former Gas Plant residents and invested into more immediate affordable and workforce housing.

Edmond said distrust of private developers building sports stadiums persists among St. Petersburg's Black communities.

He said he's wary what accountability measures taxpayers will forfeit if the city of St. Petersburg enters into the proposed public-private partnership.

A final vote on the $6.5 billion deal is expected by the city of St. Petersburg as early as July.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.