ANALYSIS: AFCRA Betrayed the Turner Field Communities
Editorial by Anna Simonton, Staff Writer and News Analyst; and Matthew Charles Cardinale, News Editor.
(APN) ATLANTA — The Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA) has officially invited developers to bid on Turner Field, despite the fact that the public input process regarding community benefits has just gotten started – a move that amounts to a stab in the back for residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium.
Turner Field’s future has been up in the air since the Braves announced their relocation to Cobb County in 2013.
As Atlanta Progressive News previously reported, the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition formed in March 2014 to represent the residents of Summerhill, Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, and other nearby neighborhoods in a planning process enabled by a Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) grant.
The LCI process brings together developers, government officials, and community members to create a unified development plan. The LCI team recently commissioned Sycamore Consulting to craft the plan based on input from all stakeholders.
But now AFCRA, headed by Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), is undercutting that process and robbing community members of a hard-won seat at the table.
Rather than prioritizing the needs of people who will be impacted by the redevelopment through a meaningful requirement that their ideas be incorporated, AFCRA’s Request for Proposals (RFP), released on October 02, 2015, merely states that developers should “Demonstrate a commitment,” to incorporating the LCI study results, language which is toothless as it is meaningless.
The RFP generally portends more of the same for neighborhoods that have historically experienced massive displacement of Black working class families due to development that was geared toward enriching a few at the expense of many.
In the 1960s, more than 10,000 homes in Mechanicsville and Summerhill were destroyed to make way for the Interstate, and an entire neighborhood was leveled for the Fulton County Stadium, where Turner Field’s parking lots are today.
In its RFP, AFCRA promises further displacement, this time in the form of gentrification.
The RFP includes thirteen redevelopment objectives that a successful proposal should fulfill. According to these objectives, the redevelopment of Turner Field should “Create significant economic value through…the generation of additional property and sales tax revenues,” and “positively impact local property values.”
But what are low-income families supposed to do in the face of the rising cost of living these objectives ensure, either through rising property taxes or rising rents?
To be sure, the AFCRA included a set-aside for affordable housing through another objective that prompts developers to “Demonstrate a commitment to a mixed-income community through the inclusion of workforce housing (to the extent residential is a component).”
The language AFCRA chose, “demonstrate a commitment,” does not denote any monitoring or enforcement of this objective.
However, the RFP’s definition of affordable housing–housing affordable at eighty percent of the Area Median Income (AMI)–means that those with the greatest unmet need for affordable units will not benefit from this set-aside.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the median annual income of the Atlanta metropolitan area is 68,300 dollars. 80 percent of that is 54,640 dollars.
So only ten percent of the units have to be affordable to families making $54,640.
A minimum wage earner working full-time in Atlanta makes a quarter of that amount.
The objectives are similarly lacking when it comes to community benefits.
One objective requires bidders to “Provide a source of quality construction and permanent jobs for area residents.”
But without further specification, developers are free to interpret what constitutes quality, permanent jobs. Many people who live near, and work at, Turner Field know all too well how those words too often describe low-wage seasonal work with no benefits.
AFCRA also states that they expect developers to “make a good faith effort to fill at least 50% of all new entry level positions created by the award of this contract with [participants in a city jobs program],” and “strongly encourages” respondents to subcontract with minority-owned and female-owned businesses.
Again, this is toothless rhetoric, where instead there could be concrete, enforceable requirements to hire locally and assemble a diverse team.
The story of the Turner Field communities is a case for reparations, and not a difficult one.
The 67 acres controlled by AFCRA is public land. It belongs to all of us, to use for the public good. It was taken years ago from working families in Atlanta, under the threat of imminent domain, for a purported public benefit that was supposed to be a sports stadium.
But that was all a bait and switch, because now that the public benefit of a sports stadium is expiring, instead of trying to give back to the community who has sacrificed so much, what we have is a bonanza for private developers to profit from the prior forced displacement of so many Atlantans, while bringing about a new wave of gentrification, the other forced displacement.
Atlanta has an incredible body of citizens who are informed, mobilized, and in the process of determining what should be done with the Turner Field land according to the needs of their communities.
AFCRA should rescind its RFP, apologize, and then await the results of the LCI study.
Whatever made you think the AFCRA had any intention of including the community in the selection process?
AFCRA is the group that has made and continues to make monumental errors, with Fanplex being only one small example.
But the entire process is a charade controlled by His Dishonor Kasim Reed, with others doing his bidding. Much money will change hands and some of it will stick to politicians’ and bureaucrats’ fingers.
The invitation to developers what a sham. How can the city expect serious bids when the Mayor has publicly put his arm around GSU.
The rush (of simultaneous LCI/RFP and the 5 year max development commitment) as I understand it is to insure this will be done on the current Mayor’s watch. Ground will be broken and development will be so far under way subsequent Mayors cannot stop or take credit for the project(s).
The talk around the NPU is that Bottoms and the Mayor are trying to siphon off communities from the Coalition. They are making promises to Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh to coax them out the Coalition in an effort to weaken the Coalition.
I listened to the WABE interview with Bottoms and with the Coalition. The Coalition had it right she pivoted several times. By the time she finished pivoting I was wondering if there was even going to be an LCI.
In talking to my other NPU members the question arises ‘how do you get tax revenue from an entity like GSU that pays no taxes?’. The majority of the land in question is being monopolized by the stadium, which produces no tax revenue.
How many times have we in this community been promised jobs, job training, living wage jobs etc. ? I believe Boehner used the term “False Prophets” emitting “empty promises”, they have no intention of delivering.
I agree, AFCRA should rescind its RFP, apologize, and then await the results of the LCI study. The Mayor cannot run again but City Council members will have to face the voters in 2017. They will have to defend all of the things they signed off on. The Mayor will be back again in the near future asking us to vote for him for Governor, the people of Atlanta will not forget Fort McPherson, the Underground and Turner Field.
Unfortunately the community sat on its ass and didn’t get anything done (remember this was announced in 2013, its 2015 people). The world doesn’t work that way, if you are passionate about something, make it happen, don’t sit back and take your time, because time is not unlimited.
Curbed Atlanta poll shows what people want……
I am continually amazed that there are people in the world who:
A. Can apparently earn a living writing, while at the same time being mind-numbingly stupid.
B. Think like this.
Do they not see the ridiculousness of these three consecutive sentences (which for some reason require separate paragraphs):
“despite the fact that the public input process regarding community benefits has just gotten started…..Turner Field’s future has been up in the air since the Braves announced their relocation to Cobb County in 2013….the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition formed in March 2014…”
So right there, you lead the article by saying that they community knew about this in 2013, didn’t organize a response until 2014, and didn’t have any defined strategy until 2015. How exactly is that the AFCRA’s fault?
Please, for the love of all that is holy, can someone please explain to me why it is the city’s job to stop “gentrification”, or even how it is a bad thing? Any property owner displaced because of gentrification makes a choice to get PAID for the increased value of their property – increased value they they didn’t have to do anything to get.
Finally, we have this gem: …”It was taken years ago from working families in Atlanta, under the threat of imminent domain.” The “threat of imminent domain”, huh? Taking aside the authors’ apparent lack of vocabulary, eminent domain isn’t a threat – it is a process whereby people get paid for their property and is one of the oldest concepts in property law that has been around for hundreds of years.
Great comments and spot on target.
When Shirley Franklin was Mayor, she addressed the gentrification problem in an out-of-town speech. City government needed more income, and thus more development and wealthier taxpayers (aka gentrification in the progressive press). However, this played against her political base and, with an increased percentage of voters who were not black and poor, her chances of re-election.