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The St. Petersburg Times

About The St. Petersburg Times

The St. Petersburg Times is a local journal focused on business and social events, operating within the media and publishing industry. The company offers journalistic content that covers various aspects of business and societal happenings. It is based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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St. Petersburg, Florida, 33701,

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Latest The St. Petersburg Times News

Century-old religious group supports Gas Plant redevelopment

Feb 20, 2024

Century-old religious group supports Gas Plant redevelopment Published Rev. J.C. Pritchett II, president of the Interdenominational Minsterial Alliance of Florida (right) and board member Rev. Sam Picard announced Tuesday that the organization voted to support and "keep a critical eye" on the Historic Gas Plant District's redevelopment plans. The St. Petersburg-based Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Florida (IMAF) announced Tuesday morning it will support and monitor the Historic Gas Plant District’s $6.5 billion redevelopment. Founded in 1925, the coalition of faith leaders works collaboratively to foster positive change in their communities. That now includes ensuring the generational project, led by the Tampa Bay Rays and Hines development group, helps fulfill long-broken promises to the predominantly Black residents who once called the Gas Plant home. Rev. J. C. Pritchett II, president of the IMAF, said 25 of 27 board members voted to support the public-private partnership between the City of St. Petersburg and the development team. He also noted that the IMAF criticized previous Gas Plant redevelopment plans in 1979. “This idea that someone is going to come save the African American community with free housing and free meals … is un-American, naïve and immature,” Pritchett said. “This is an opportunity to get a piece of the pie by participating in capitalism and being entrepreneurs.” The Gas Plant Neighborhood was razed in the 1980s to make way for Tropicana Field. File photo. He said the IMAF has a responsibility to speak out about social issues. The organization’s focus areas include promoting voter education and rights, ending the opioid epidemic, reducing poverty and the Gas Plant’s redevelopment. In the 1980s, city officials began razing the predominantly Black neighborhood’s homes, businesses and churches in the name of urban renewal. Residents received Tropicana Field and its sprawling parking lots. Some critics believe the Rays/Hines-proposed 600 onsite and 600 offsite affordable and workforce housing units are insufficient to help right past wrongs. Roughly 500 households, 30 businesses and nine churches were displaced from the area. Pritchett said one project cannot mitigate centuries of systemic racism. He called it unfair to expect Mayor Ken Welch to achieve something “in 45 months that no one else could accomplish in 45 years.” “It’s not fair to say that 86 acres are going to be this unique, utopian housing solution,” Pritchett added. IMAF board member Sam Picard, a pastor at the Missio Dei Community, agreed. He believes it is impractical to think the chronic homeless community he serves could afford to live downtown. Picard noted Welch is a Gas Plant descendent with a “deeply personal stake” in ensuring the project’s benefits are “broadly shared.” He believes Rays’ leadership has “proved that they really want to be a good community partner over the years …” “It doesn’t mean we take our eyes off them,” Picard said. “It means that this feels like a good fit. It feels like the best deal that’s going to come out of this.” A site plan of the $6.5 billion redevelopment project. Image provided. Pritchett stressed the importance of keeping a critical eye on the public-private partnership while ensuring the community does not miss an opportunity. A proposed benefits package includes $15 million for city-led affordable housing initiatives, $10.5 million in small business assistance, $6.25 million for workforce development, $10 million to build a new Woodson African American Museum of Florida, $7.5 million for educational purposes and $3.75 million to support supplier diversity and entrepreneurship programs. Pritchett, pointing to a 1979 St. Petersburg Times article, said the IMAF – unlike some organizations – has never sought “reparations or a handout.” He said they have advocated for housing, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities at the site. Project opponents say the public impacts do not justify the city selling about 65 acres of prime real estate to the Rays/Hines for $105 million. “Many people would love for us to miss this opportunity,” Pritchett said. Picard called it logical to question any municipal stadium deal. He and Pritchett also noted the IMAF includes people of various faiths, races and backgrounds, and not everyone completely agrees with the redevelopment plans. “We do support it, but also continue to watch and make sure that the promises that are made now are really kept …,” Picard said. “It balances what you can reasonably get out of a deal like this.”

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