ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Pinellas and Hillsborough County economic development leaders want in on the Amazon action.
Amazon, the country’s largest retailer, is looking to build a second headquarters—dubbed HQ2—somewhere outside of its current Seattle campus. What’s resulted is an intense bidding war between cities and regions nationwide to land the new eight million square feet of office space.
Pinellas County Economic Development Director Mike Meidel says that Tampa Bay is joining the pursuit.
“The county commissions on both sides of the bay are enthusiastic in the support of a single proposal from the Tampa Bay area,” Meidel told 10News. “I think that’s critical to us having any chance of winning.”
But where to put it?
Meidel says the 85-acres on which Tropicana Field currently sits in downtown St. Petersburg is the “perfect site.”
“Oh, it is, because the cost will be low. The plans are already in place, it’s publicly owned,” he said. “It’s not like this is out of the blue, we’ve been planning for it for years.”
For just as many years, a seemingly endless supply of suggestions for what the site should ultimately become have circulated.
In 2016, there was talk of redeveloping the area into a mix of bike trails, retail shops, townhouses, and restaurants. A park-oriented development, expanded medical and university buildings, or a new and improved stadium were floated the year prior. St. Pete-based tech engineering firm Jabil Circuit Inc. was even rumored to be considering relocating its headquarters from the north end of town to the Trop site in 2013.
Amid the latest Amazon prospect is the continuing question of whether the Rays will stay in St. Pete or relocate across the bay. No matter the decision, Meidel says the current Trop site will be redeveloped. But he emphasized that Amazon and the Rays are not mutually exclusive scenarios for St. Pete.
“I don’t see why the Rays can’t be part of the Amazon deal,” Meidel said. “That would be tremendous to have both there together.”
Across the bay, 45-acres of Tampa Port Authority-owned property near the Channelside District could also serve as a potential site, Meidel said, while a 40-acre Jeff Vinik-Bill Gates-owned site on the south end of downtown Tampa is also in the mix.
Proposals are due to Amazon by Oct. 19. The company is planning to spend more than $5 billion to build its new facility, promising jobs that pay about $100,000 annually.
While it's exciting to consider the possibility, Meidel admits it’s a long shot for Tampa Bay.
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