ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It might be summer break, but a handful of students have been hard at work on a project they'll be presenting to St. Pete City Council.
Students in the Summer at City Hall (SACH) program, which teaches students about local government and the inner workings of city hall, will present their ideas surrounding the highly anticipated redevelopment of the 86-acre site containing Tropicana Field and the area nearby.
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The group of eight students were tasked with developing a plan after meeting the members of the city's development team and reviewing proposals.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was as skeptical as the next guy being like, really what are they going to do with a bunch of 16-year-olds talking to them and we’re like, ‘we have this idea,'" said St. Pete High student Pooja Manjakandy.
Manjakandy and fellow St. Pete High student Renata Happle were working together Wednesday evening to put the final touches on their presentation.
“I feel like each of us offer a really unique perspective and I don’t know that it would be the same perspective as a council member," Happle said.
Included in the presentation is ideas about how to incorporate parks and play areas for families, affordable housing, sustainable architecture and entertainment options beyond baseball.
"I’m passionate about sustainability so that was at the forefront of my mind," said Happle, who researched a building in Milan, Italy known as the 'Vertical Forest.'
Happle said the concept, which incorporates vegetation as an integral part of the building and design, is something she'd love to see applied in development in St. Pete.
"It reintroduces wildlife into the community, it cleans the air, and it actually insulates the building, so I think that’s pretty cool," she said. "It’s applying a new method of architecture and it would be a major—maybe not tourist attraction—but definitely an Instagram shot."
Noticeably absent from the grand ideas are any serious mention of building another baseball stadium.
"Right now the Trop, it’s a stadium with a lot of parking and it doesn’t do much," Manjakandy said. "But there is a chance to change that and honestly shift the dynamic of the city.”
Manjakandy and Happle said even if city leaders don't incorporate any of their ideas, they at least hope their project will inspire other ideas.
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