GSU won’t meet Turner Field critics, despite rising pressure at Atlanta City Hall

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Georgia State University has been meeting with elected neighborhood representatives of the Turner Field area.

By David Pendered

Tension is rising, again, over the redevelopment of Turner Field. At least two members of the Atlanta City Council are calling on Georgia State University to meet with area residents. GSU affirmed Thursday that it has been meeting with elected neighborhood leadership and offered to meet with other groups – but the later rejected terms of the meeting.

Turner Field, front

The redevelopment of the Turner Field community continues to spur controversy. File photo

The turmoil continues what has been, at times, a contentious process of devising the future of Turner Field and surrounding areas. The Atlanta Braves have already played ballgames at SunTrust Park. The fate of the old stadium and its surrounding neighorhoods remains a political pop-up fly ball.

The current phase of unrest began earlier this month and hit a crescendo April 10 with the arrest of four GSU students and former state Rep. Douglas Dean. The five refused to leave a GSU building.

These five were part of a larger group that conducted a five-hour sit-in in front of GSU President Mark Becker’s office. Their purpose was to meet with Becker and discuss potential community benefits for the neighborhood, such as affordable housing, job training and employment in businesses at the future redevelopment. Becker did not meet with members of the group.

Some advocates eventually retreated to a tent city erected outside the northeast gate of Turner Field.

Atlanta City Councilmember Felicia Moore said Thursday she has drafted legislation urging Becker to meet with area residents. Moore said she was prepared to file the paper at Monday’s council meeting. The purpose of the meeting with residents would be to discuss a potential agreement whereby GSU would participate in a community benefits agreement.

Moore, who’s campaigning for council president, said she did not file the legislation at Monday’s meeting. Moore said she held the paper out of professional courtesy to Councilmember Carla Smith, who represents the stadium neighborhoods. Moore said Smith had told her that she, Smith, was trying to arrange a meeting of GSU, residents, and Georgia Stand-Up (a longtime advocate of community benefits agreements) to resolve differences.

Mark Becker

Mark Becker

Meanwhile, Councilmember Michael Julian Bond, who’s seeking to retain his current citywide seat, said during Monday’s city council meeting that he would sign Moore’s proposed legislation. He also affirmed his support for the five who were arrested.

“I want to uphold those who had the intestinal fortitude to get arrested, to stand up for what they believe in, that’s the city of Atlanta’s history,” Bond said. “If Atlanta is to live up to its creed as a, ‘City too busy to hate,’ we ought to uphold those individuals and we ought to let that tent city stand.”

Bond spoke after the Atlanta City Council voted to create a trust fund to benefit neighborhoods near Turner Field. Bond sponsored the legislation that created the trust fund. As amended by the council’s Finance Committee, it provides that:

  • “WHEREAS, it is in the best interest to require proceeds from the future sale of any City-owned property in the vicinity of the Turner Field Redevelopment area benefit residents of the surrounding neighborhoods; and
  • “WHEREAS, a Trust Fund Account should be established for the collection and expenditure of these funds to be used solely to fund economic and community development initiatives, such as affordable housing, job training, and in the Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, Peoplestown, and Summerhill neighborhoods.”
The Turner Field study area was evaluated in a $275,000 visioning plan, encompasses about 1,340 acres at and around the ballpark. File/Credit: ARC

The Turner Field study area was evaluated in a $275,000 visioning plan, encompasses about 1,340 acres at and around the ballpark. File/Credit: ARC

In response a request for GSU’s latest position on the situation, the university released the following statement from Becker. This comment was prepared for use by the GSU’s student newspaper, The Signal:

  • “The university is constitutionally prohibited from signing this Community Benefits Agreement. When we allocate money, we have to allocate money for the purposes that was intended and it goes through a BOR (Board of Regents) process. There’s something in the Constitution called the Gratuities Clause, which [states] we can’t just go giving you state money or our tuition dollars without there being an appropriate university use for that activity. And giving money away to organizations external of the university is not an allowed activity. We don’t make donations, we don’t make contributions.
  • “The CBA is a specific legal document. We’re not going to do that. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to find ways to work together. In the main, everybody wants the same thing. Nobody wants the flooding to persist. We all want to find solutions to that. Now that’s going to be primarily Carter. In terms of wanting to bring resources into the community – I was one of the first people to publicly say there needs to be a grocery store. There is a lot of complexity to it, but primarily what neighborhood residents want, not this Benefits Coalition, the neighborhood residents, what Carter and Georgia State wants to do, are aligned.
  • “Gentrification is a city issue, not a university issue, to solve.  We do not set property tax rates.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Steve, this arrangement was part of the deal from the beginning. The City and County played their parts, the State played its part, and the locals were played for patsys. Plenty of people told the locals they would lose their leverage after the deal was concluded, and so they have.Report

    Reply
  2. Tim McCabe says:

    Good for GSU. Perhaps some of the longtime residents have clued them in about the real motivations of the Housing Justice League and their involvement with TFCBC.
    GSU and Carter should never meet with this group! TFCBC no longer represents the neighborhoods.
    Summerhill is not represented by the coalition, and Turner Field rests entirely in the Summerhill neighborhood.
    The esteemed Annie E. Casey Foundation / Center for Working Families withdrew financial support and severed their relationship with TFCBC in December, which should tell you something.
    Most of the original coalition members dropped out after Tim Franzen, Columbus Ward, Doug Dean and the other figures who have held power for 20 years took over the committee.
    Doug and Columbus (with a few others) have kept these communities, and surrounding areas, in their current state of disinvestment for the past generation. These folks don’t want progress, they want things to stay the same, so they retain control. They want a CBA because the original CBA (with the Braves, inked when the protesters were in diapers) benefited their own pockets via the SMP Fund’s millions streaming into their organizations all those years, with no beneficial outcomes to the area, or accounting for the money trail.
    So now their ask for $25+ million from GSU and Carter gets eyes rolling from the longtime neighbors.
    This is the SAME Doug Dean who took it upon himself to deface the Living Walls artist mural, the same Doug Dean who used community funds for loans to developers (via the SNDC) when he lived in Summerhill.
    Actual residents (not people that live in Adair Park, or Decatur) have discussed all of this on social media sites like Twitter, NextDoor and neighborhood Facebook pages. We are tired of Tim Franzen’s attempts to twist the narrative and say that he speaks for us. He doesn’t. He has the same handful of “residents” at every one of his “actions” and when he sent volunteers canvassing the streets to drum up support, he didn’t get any…because we all have been watching this play out for several years.

    Residents have had PLENTY of input via the LCI’s survey, interactive workshops, and meetings: http://www.stadiumneighborhoodslci.org/s/TFSNLCI_FinalPlan_LowResolution-c6fc.pdf

    as well as the original TFCBC survey results, which showed residents’ desire for fixing public safety, flooding, and traffic problems outweighed most other concerns.
    http://atlanta.curbed.com/2016/1/14/10846670/turner-field-survey-shows-residents-arent-asking-for-much

    Look deeper and out who these “protesters” really are. They have an agenda and are pushing it through multiple fundraising sites. The students are inspired to rally and paint clever signs, but they don’t even understand the true history of this area, and the damage that was done by these “leaders”. If you really want to DO something to help the area, take down those (empty?!) tents and use your time to become a volunteer or tutor for local schools.
    Or get involved with the Beltine committee that has published a free guide with resources for neighbors who may need help to remain in their homes: http://beltlineorg.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Atlanta-BeltLine-Homeowner-Resource-Guide-vMarch-2017.pdf
    Or one of the many other local organizations that helps seniors with property tax issues.
    Those are the real needs of this neighborhood. This privileged publicity stunt of pseudo-protesting falls flat.Report

    Reply
  3. Tim McCabe says:

    Here’s some verbiage straight from tfcbc documents:

    They wanted money in a fund that they could “administer”…Just like they made $ disappear from the SMP fund


    Beginning at acquisition of the property,
    developer will provide $250,000 in funding and/or comparable in-kind resources to identified partner agencies to provide outreach, education, and legal services to homeowners of local neighborhoods to reduce property tax burden, housing discrimination, prevent foreclosure or loss of property, prevent predatory lending, and credit repair
    Developer will provide an initial investment of $250,000 and an annual contribution of $100,000 to maintain a competitive Housing Rights Fund that supports programs for code compliance assistance, home rehab, weather-proofing, energy efficiency, legal advocacy, tenant organizing, consumer education, fair housing law, foreclosure, predatory lending prevention, and credit repair
    Developer will establish a competitive “Housing Opportunity Revolving Loan Fund” capitalized at $5 million to provide revenue for acquisition, development, rehabilitation and management of existing and new affordable housing
    Developer will provide an initial investment of $250,000 and an annual contribution of $100,000 to maintain a competitive Housing Rights Fund that supports programs for code compliance assistance, home rehab, weather-proofing, energy efficiency, legal advocacy, tenant organizing, consumer education, fair housing law, foreclosure, predatory lending prevention, and credit repair
    The Developer will provide initial and ongoing voluntary contributions to the Community Benefits funding streams, partnerships, and implementation activities identified in these recommendations
    implementation:
    •Initial contribution of $10M to establish funding pools.
    •After five years, annual contribution of $1M to maintain community funding streams, fund partnerships, and implementation activities of community benefits
    Report

    Reply

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