ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — City leaders in St. Pete voted unanimously Thursday to allow a new housing project to be built at the old Raytheon site in the Azalea neighborhood near Tyrone Square Mall.

In a meeting Thursday, they heard from developers about the proposed project, which would provide over 1,000 new apartments to the city, with a certain percentage of them dedicated to affordable housing.

What You Need To Know

  • The St. Petersburg City Council voted Wednesday to approve a new housing project

  • The development will be built at the old Raytheon site in the Azalea neighborhood near Tyrone Square Mall

  • Developers told city leaders that the site was safe, thanks to years of remediation

There was no shortage of residents in attendance, both for and against the project, who spoke out at the meeting with city leaders. The city’s ongoing issues with a lack of available affordable housing were front and center. 

Those opposing the project brought up issues of traffic, water run-off and serious environmental concerns. The concerns stem from the property where this new apartment complex will be built. 

For decades, the Raytheon site has been home to toxic soil and dangerous contaminants. Developers, along with their experts, said in the meeting that they have done substantial work at the site and it’s still being done to reduce any potential health risks on the property.

Developers also said that when residents move in to the new condo complex, there will be wording in their lease to alert them of the conditions on the property. 

But concern is still there for the people who live near the former toxic plant where the condo complex will be built.

For Tate and Venus McGhee, watching their kids play in the water in their spacious backyard is part of the reason why they bought their home in the Azealia neighborhood.

“We moved here because we lived in a small apartment before we had kids,” Vernus said. “Once we had kids, we needed a bigger house, obviously, and this is a great neighborhood.”

Before they got the keys to their new home, Venus said they were given a warning.

“When we first bought the place as we were looking at houses in the neighborhood, our Relator showed us a map of the plume from the toxic exposure a long time ago, and our house was not in the plume,” she said.

But her children’s bus stop, which is also at the park where they play, the former Raytheon site is just steps away.

“When the weather is cooler, it will be filled with kids, especially right after school,” Venus said. “Kids like to come over here right when they get out of school and it’s a vibrant playground, all times of the day.”

The McGhee family say they are worried that safe playtime could be jeopardized by the proposed condo complex.

“Why, all of a sudden, are we gonna become almost victims now of really the sale of that property?” Tate said. “And I’m a bit disgusted by our leadership that they didn’t say, ‘Hey, let’s be transparent about it.’”

Officials say the developer submitted hundreds of pages of documents to the city to support the safety of the project, along with renderings of the three-phase plan for the condo complex. It’s noted, they aren’t allowed to build any apartments on the bottom floor of phase three because of the soil conditions there.

The documents also detail how, with remediation, the contamination levels at the site have decreased over the years. And the developer said they will work with local and state agencies to continue to make sure the soil, plumes from construction, and groundwater are tested during construction.

But for the McGhee family, those promises bring them no comfort.

“We need more clarification,” said Tate. “We need more specificity from the officials. They need to be more transparent. They need to be more forward with the community members with questions like putting pavement over contaminated soil. Is that going to properly cap it?”

Residents also signed a petition in opposition to the new development and it gained nearly 1,500 signatures before the city council meeting.