ST. PETERSBURG — A St. Louis company that specializes in redeveloping environmentally troubled properties has acquired the controversial 29-acre Raytheon property, calling it a “pure opportunity” for mixed-use development.
Officers of Commercial Development Company said Monday the company hopes to have a development concept put together in a couple of months, though the timetable for actual development is uncertain.
“We want to move forward to develop it,” CEO Randall Jostes said. “Sooner is better.”
Company officials met last week with nearby residents who have been concerned about groundwater pollution from the property for years, and will continue to meet with neighbors and government officials as they try to find the best uses for the site, Jostes said.
City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes said the presidents of three neighborhood associations were “encouraged and excited” after hearing from Commercial Development Company officials last week.
“We had a good exchange about the kind of things the neighborhoods thought would work and the kinds of things the neighborhoods didn’t want at all,” Gerdes said Monday. “The guys at CDC listened and weren’t surprised at all by what the neighborhoods didn’t want.”
Gerdes called the company’s acquisition “a tremendous, tremendous opportunity” to redevelop contaminated property that has been a major source of concern in the Azalea, Jungle Terrace and Crossroads areas for years.
Dominick Griesi, president of the Azalea Neighborhood Association, came away from the teleconference meeting optimistic about company’s plans.
“I felt they said all the right things,” he said. “We thought they were very honest with us,”
He said company officials mentioned building high-end residential units and shops along 22nd Avenue, and tearing down most or potentially all of the buildings on the site. He suggested that the company hold a meeting with the entire community as the plans proceed.
“I feel good about it if they do what they say they’re going to do,” Griesi said. “We’ll keep an eye on it.”
Griesi and other residents have been fighting to get the site cleaned since learning of the underground contamination about eight years ago.
Raytheon bought the 1950s manufacturing facility at 1501 72nd St. N. from E-Systems in 1995 and inherited a site contaminated with toxins such as lead, toluene, vinyl chloride, dioxane and trichloroethylene that had seeped into the groundwater.
Jostes said CDC’s environmental consultants are satisfied the property is ready to redevelop after Raytheon’s substantial remediation efforts, which have been approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Raytheon will continue to keep and monitor groundwater wells in the area.
“Quite frankly, it may very well be one of the cleanest sites in all of Florida,” Jostes said.
CDC specializes in brownfield and environmentally damaged properties, with more than 175 sites in the United States and more than 130 in Canada. Some the company redevelops itself, some are offered to other builders.
Jostes said the Raytheon location along major access roads and in a densely populated area near such amenities as the Tyrone Square Mall and the Pinellas Trail make it attractive. He envisions a combination of multi-family housing and retail stores to complement what already is in the area.
“That’s what attracted us,” he said. “It just shouts lifestyle.”
Several businesses and developers already have contacted the company about the site, Jostes said.
“This is a site that really is pure opportunity,” Jostes said. “It’s a spectacular market.”
He said the company will develop a master plan, but it will be flexible depending on market demands and neighborhood concerns.
Brian O’Connell, CDC’s director of acquisitions, said the company is working with Vector Commercial Real Estate to remarket the property, which he called “a tremendous opportunity for new development.”