Residents, Advocates Criticize Selection of GSU to Redevelop Turner Field
“The writing was on the wall that GSU was always going to win this particular bid. There’s not a lot of people in the market for a gently used stadium,” Matt Garbett, media chair of the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition (TFCBC), told Atlanta Progressive News.
TFCBC is made up of more than forty organizations and many individuals living in the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium.
The group has been fighting for residents to have a hand in deciding how the area is redeveloped when the Braves baseball team move to Cobb County next year.
TFCBC initially balked at AFCRA’s decision in October 2015 to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) from potential developers.
That is because TFCBC and other residents and advocates were in the midst of a community-driven planning process made possible by a Livable Communities Initiative (LCI) grant.
That process would have eventually entailed the issuing of an RFP created with community input. But AFCRA beat them to it, initially suggesting that the process might take so long that LCI input could be somehow incorporated into the selection process.
AFCRA’s RFP covered the same parcels as an early rendering made by Georgia State with the real estate firm Carter. This lead some to believe that AFCRA intended to cut a deal with the University all along.
That rankled residents who rejected Georgia State’s initial proposal to not only keep Turner Field intact, but build another stadium next to it.
The University told 11Alive television news that its current proposal includes two options: the original plan to convert Turner Field into a football stadium and build a new baseball stadium next to it; or a new plan to retrofit Turner Field into a mixed-use housing and retail development, and build a new baseball stadium and a new football stadium on the surrounding property.
The proposal has not been made public, so further details are unknown.
A majority of community members have consistently indicated that they do not want yet another stadium (much less two) in a neighborhood that was destroyed by stadium projects in the past.
TFCBC members are still hopeful that they can influence the plan.
“Negotiations have begun, but it’s a long way to sale,” Geoff Heard, who works for the Summerhill Neighborhood Development Corporation, said.
“We had concerns that the RFP was issued. But when you look at the RFP, it does have room for [community] involvement,” Heard explained.
The RFP states, “The Preferred Respondent will be expected to begin immediate participation in the LCI study process.”
When TFCBC kicked off its LCI planning study with a big event earlier this month, Mayor Kasim Reed, City of Atlanta Planning Department Director Charletta Jacks, and City Council Member (District 11) and AFCRA Director Keisha Lance Bottoms were all in attendance.
“The Mayor came out and indicated… that the process would be fair and open. [AFCRA] has continued to indicate that the desires of the community would be included,” Heard said.
Those assurances were echoed in press releases issued by AFCRA and the mayor’s office, when Georgia State’s winning bid was announced.
“As we enter this phase, we will continue to work with the surrounding community and partners in the City and County to ensure that they continue to play a vital role in this process. Our most important objective is that the future redevelopment of this area is one that we can all be proud of,” Lance Bottoms said in a statement.
“The LCI process… will have a substantial and clear impact on the redevelopment plan and final design. I believe this requirement sets this redevelopment effort apart, and demonstrates my commitment to ensuring inclusive, lasting change,” Mayor Reed said in his statement.
His words were a departure from comments he made only a month earlier when he defended the lack of community input in AFCRA’s RFP.
“We haven’t had community input prior to any [other] RFP… I don’t know why Turner Field is being pulled out as a transaction where this should occur,” Mayor Reed had said at an Atlanta City Council meeting in November 2015.
These shifting dynamics have led TFCBC members to be “cautiously optimistic,” Garbett said.
The group is moving forward with a survey of 1,800 Turner Field area residents and will hold a series of community meetings to obtain input.
Meanwhile, as part of the LCI process, the planning firm Perkins and Will will help turn recommendations into proposals that could be incorporated into Georgia State’s plans.
“We have to work on those things on the faith that they mean something,” Garbett said.