Themes emerge in tense meeting on Turner Field’s future

Turner Field

Aerial of Turner Field, May 7, 2014. BRANT SANDERLIN /BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM
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Aerial of Turner Field,  May 7, 2014.  BRANT SANDERLIN /BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM  .

Aerial of Turner Field, May 7, 2014. BRANT SANDERLIN /BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

The mood was tense in the 755 Club at Turner Field on Wednesday night. Not the sort of tension felt by fans in the bottom of the 9th with a game on the line. It was the angst of a community uncertain about its future.

More than 200 people packed the club over The Ted’s left field seats and heard something many had feared: the process to sell Turner Field would move forward at the same time as a planned community study conducted by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Neighborhood groups have long demanded the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority wait until the Livable Centers Initiative study — to be chock full of community input — was finished.

Instead, the authority could issue a request for proposals for the ballpark’s redevelopment as soon as October.

A number of themes emerged in the meeting, which also drew many politicos, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Bidders and the economy

Reed and others on the panel argued the process needs to move forward, given what Reed described as the volatility of the real estate market. The ARC study might take the better part of a year. Bidders are at the table now, Reed said, but might not be if things drag on.

The team of Georgia State University and the real estate firm Carter is the only group so far that’s come forward with a plan, though Reed said others, including casino interests, are scouting the site. He said he believes the RFP will undoubtedly cause others to surface.

The authority’s executive director told neighborhood groups that the sale process must begin in short order as the Atlanta Braves are poised to vacate the ballpark by the end of next year. The cost of Turner Field upkeep to taxpayers at that time, she said, will be around $5 million annually.

“I don’t stand here as an alarmist. I stand here as a realist. Time is of the essence,” said Keisha Lance Bottoms, with grand views of Turner Field behind her. “This is a 48,000-seat stadium that in 15 months will be empty.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed answers a question during an Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority community meeting about the future of Turner Field on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. More than 200 people came to the meeting, which was held at Turner Field's 755 Club. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed answers a question during an Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority community meeting about the future of Turner Field on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. More than 200 people came to the meeting, which was held the 755 Club. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

Reed said the notion of waiting for the community study before starting the bidding process “is too unstable for this kind of development.”

It’s a fear Reed has shared before — that the current real estate cycle might not last. It’s tied to the theory that it is better to move forward with interested parties now than wait and maybe end up with an empty stadium rusting along the Downtown Connector after the Braves leave.

Reed’s term ends in 2017, and a vacant ballpark with no plan to replace it isn’t the legacy he likely wants to leave.

But timing the market is tricky.

The current U.S. economic expansion has carried on since the end of 2009, an extraordinary, if uneven,  six-year run. Recessions generally hit every four years or so.

Reed said the authority and city want to pick a developer that can pull off its vision in five years.

Developers are still scoping out prime property and lenders are hot for commercial real estate again. But how long will that last?

Trust issues

Many in the room applauded loudly when one resident said local officials don’t exactly have a good track record of listening to residents.

One person, after the meeting, mentioned that many neighbors of Fort McPherson felt like they’d been railroaded by the process of selling much of the closed Army post to filmmaker Tyler Perry.

Reed said the authority can’t risk delaying a sale process.

“Deals that are here right now and interest that is here right now may change in an economy that is highly volatile and a real estate market that is cyclical,” he said.

“Then don’t tell us that we’re involved,” interjected Scott Callison, a Summerhill resident. The audience applauded in agreement.

Afterward, another resident said the meeting appeared to show the city is more interested in making sure not to miss the current economic cycle — and affordable interest rates — than hearing the community’s vision.

‘No casinos’

Another overriding sentiment in the room: casinos aren’t a popular redevelopment idea for Turner Field.

Moderator and long-time Atlanta public relations and political communications consultant Jeff Dickerson read one written question from the audience that got plenty of heads nodding.

“No casino! No casino! No casino!” Dickerson read from the card.

Reed, who was on his way out of the meeting quickly replied: “I hear you, I hear you, I hear you.”

Staff writer Katie Leslie contributed to this report.

Reader Comments 0

19 comments
justhetruth2015
justhetruth2015

If you honestly think the Mayor gives a rats a$$ what the people in the community want you are completely clueless. The Mayor is getting HIS DEAL done before he leaves office. Feathering his nest ...plain and simple. This deal CANT WAIT...too important for a man that has time to prosecute Rick Warren for housing violations. Its all a farce. 

Kasim Reed = Bill Campbell.  Keisha just carries his water and is setting herself up for a big time surprise. 

Birdhair
Birdhair

Key statement: Reed and others on the panel argued the process needs to move forward, given what Reed described as the volatility of the real estate market. The ARC study might take the better part of a year. Bidders are at the table now, Reed said, but might not be if things drag on.

So apparently Reed knows the economy and real estate market than experts in these fields. Who are all the bidders and are they saying that if they can't get their hands on turner field site before the community is ready that they will walk away? Let's see the quotes from Gsu and others, Kasim.

Clearly, Kasim is ignoring the community. Having these meetings is all for show on his part. He's not listening to the community.

The community wants to make the best calculated decision rather than a rushed decision. The community wants the right long term partner for the area. The community is trying to clean up the area first.

Kasim reed Just wants to get HIS deal done before his term is over and so his buddies on the other end can get their $ ASAP.

AJCReaderX
AJCReaderX

Well, at least the city PRETENDED to listen to neighborhood residents. This is unlike the Cobb County government, which announced it would be hosting the new Braves Stadium after soliciting ZERO input from local residents.


Definition of RAILROAD (verb - transitive): ex: to railroad, to be railroaded

1. to suppy with railroads

2. to push (a law or bill) hastily through a legislature so that this not time enough for objections to be considered.

3. to pressure or coerce into a hasty action or decision.

4. to convict in a hasty manner by means of false charge or insufficient evidence. 


ALL ABOARRRRD!!

JHH0718
JHH0718

Build the casino. It would be the perfect place.  Most cities that build casinos see crime increase and the local neighborhoods deteriorate.  They already have that built in around The Ted.

RadioPat
RadioPat

I would much rather see GSU come in and use an already  built stadium and build around it. They want to also build a baseball stadium, student housing and offices. Then maybe they can start purchasing some of the land that many vacant houses sit on around the stadium. This is a real chance to save this side of town.


As far a surrounding communities go, unless you leave within walking distance of the stadium I really don't get how you have any input on the situation. I get a casino would bring some negative things to the area but it is already an area that has nothing going for it aside from 81 Braves games a year. The city would have never been in this position in the 1st place if they had decided to develop around the stadium as promised. Hard to imagine in 1996 that this site would be the way it is now.

Tiger9197
Tiger9197

@RadioPat You should look into real estate trends in Atlanta. To say that it is an area without much going on around it is ridiculous. As sbatl stated Grant Park is less than 1 mile away and is the hottest neighborhood in town and Summerhill is up an coming quickly. Peoplestown and all of the surrounding neighborhoods could benefit greatly from the right development, but the wrong development could reverse trends that the residents of the surrounding area have beens working on for years.


sbatl
sbatl

@RadioPat as a resident of Grant Park, only about a mile from the stadium, we do have a lot going on and are very concerned with the project and have the right to be concerned considering the project will affect our property value in some fashion. I'm sure you would understand if a casino was proposed in your backyard. From what I've gathered from my neighbors, the GSU plan is a great idea and what the community wants. With more and more millenials choosing to move back into downtown, the ramifications of this project is huge for the long term growth and progress of the city. 

Wetmore
Wetmore

christians unite! the casinos are coming and they bring boogiemen and crime!!!

sbatl
sbatl

@Wetmore its not christians who are against this, its the surrounding communities (extremely diverse and overwhelmingly progressive) who are against it. Casinos are a terrible idea and study after study shows that they increase crime, increase individual debt and bankruptcy, increase divorce rates, property rates decline, and have no positive affect on the local economy. See for yourself: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/08/a-good-way-to-wreck-a-local-economy-build-casinos/375691/. Most of all a casino is simply not wanted in the area, not to mention its not even legal in the state of Georgia. The fear is, just like the cobb county deal, the whole thing will go down without any community input and we will be stuck, and the politicians will get paid and leave office.

2Doose
2Doose

BTW, how many people that attend the meeting resides within a 2 mile radius (walking distance) of Turner Field?

sbatl
sbatl

@2Doose Well the article mentioned someone from Summerhill which is right next to the stadium. I am a resident of Grant park, which is within a mile of the stadium, and know that the overwhelming sentiment of the neighborhood is against a casino.

Raumin Tadayon
Raumin Tadayon

@2Doose I do, I walked down to Turner Field, and I was at the meeting and it was pretty intense. The reality is the City has a window to strike a deal with the property or investors will look else where. You act now and you have a bigger selection of plans and investors, you wait for the community to figure out what they want and by that time the economic landscape will be totally different and the pool of options will dwindle.

2Doose
2Doose

Oh yeah! The Casino idea does not involve the taxpayers money.

fez
fez

@2Doose Until people spend all of their money and need a government handout, which of course, you would be against.

USMC2841
USMC2841

"The current U.S. economic expansion" That's cute.  Now tell me the one about how H1b visa's and uncontrolled borders help Americans keep jobs.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

I guess its a race to see who can be the most unseemly between Atlanta and DeKalb County government.

On a positive note, looks like the Dekalb soccer Complex that had NO community input might fall through because of extra unaccounted expense. Attn Gov. officials, KARMA ISS B>*&^.