Top decision-makers for the Atlanta Braves new ballpark and mixed-use development shared some of their ingredients for what they say will be a winning complex Thursday at an event for real estate professionals near the future SunTrust Park.
There will be high-end retailers on par with J.Crew, Anthropologie and lululemon, but not ultra-luxury brands such as Gucci. Some will be new merchants never before seen in metro Atlanta. Restaurants from local and nationally-acclaimed chefs will line a plaza for events designed to bring energy 18 hours a day.
“It’s not a lifestyle center, it’s more than a mixed-use center,” said Jeff Fuqua, of Fuqua Development, who is heading up the retail and restaurant portion of the project. “It’s an open-air entertainment project anchored by a Major League Baseball stadium.”
The Braves plan to open in 2017 the 41,000-seat ballpark, as well as an office tower, hotel, hundreds of residential units and more than 400,000-square feet of retail and restaurant space. It’s a feat no other pro sports team in the U.S. has accomplished at the same time as stadium construction.
In all, it’s more than $1 billion in development, and the viability of the entertainment and residential district is crucial.
Cobb County leaders are providing nearly $400 million in taxpayer financing to the stadium, and the vitality of the overall project, tax receipts and spin-off development were big selling points.
The talk Thursday with real estate group CoreNet Global at the Georgian Club, included top Braves partners, including Fuqua, Braves executive Mike Plant, Wakefield Beasley CEO and architect Lamar Wakefield and Mason Zimmerman, who is handling office development with Pope & Land.
Fuqua said the developers have held discussions with about 40 restaurant groups, including many headed by local chefs, as well as New York-based firms. Dining has become entertainment, he said, and a key driver for the project. Braves games will only occupy about 1 percent of the district’s annual operating hours, so high-end retailers and a focus on women’s apparel will help generate traffic beyond the Braves 81 regular season home games.
“The quality of the retail the Braves are demanding – there is no second-best,” he said.
Last month, the Braves and Comcast announced that the cable giant will occupy the office tower and bring about 1,000 jobs to an innovation lab on the site. They will also provide ultra-fast Internet service to the complex.
Zimmerman said the Braves project has helped spur nearby development of about planned 1,000 apartments, and about 1 million square feet of office space in the Cumberland Mall area is also in the works.
Connie Engel, another panelist and the lead partner over the Atlanta Galleria Office Park for Childress Klein Properties, said the team has become a “catalyst” for nearby development plans.
In other discussions, Plant, the Braves executive vice president of business operations, said announcements about tenants and other draws will be sprinkled out over the next 24 months. Traffic and parking plans, eagerly awaited by fans and nearby workers and residents, will be released when it completed, but he offered no time table. He said bus connections to MARTA are under discussion and the team is working on transportation projects that would start both before and after Opening Day 2017.
“We are working on it every day,” he said. “We are going to have solutions, have (some) solutions today.”
Plant said comments he made to a Kennesaw business group about cycling to the complex were not about transportation alternatives for fans attending ballgames, but weekend excursions to the development by people who live nearby.