By Guest Columnist JAY SILVERMAN, senior associate at Lord Aeck Sargent and president of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
As the current president of AIA’s Atlanta, I have heard many concerns from our membership about the demolition of the Georgia Dome, the potential negative impact of the Braves leaving their downtown Atlanta facility and the immense public cost of each of the two new stadiums.
I have come to understand that our baseball and football teams need to build new facilities to insure their financial success for the future. As an architect, I am excited about the design opportunities for the talented professionals in our region, as well as the potential for the design of these new facilities to improve the fan experience, attract visitors and represent our city on the national stage.
By constructing the two new facilities and their surrounding developments, the team relocations will leave behind two highly prominent development sites in the heart of Atlanta. Each of these four sites has the potential to be a catalyst for important improvements to their surrounding districts and possibly the greater region. I believe that this is a meaningful way to recoup the significant public investment in these new facilities.
The New Falcons Stadium
There has already been significant discussion about the benefits of a new open-air football stadium. The striking design for the new stadium has the opportunity to capture public interest and present a very positive, forward-looking image for our city.
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has already made a significant financial commitment to the Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods. However, to truly revitalize this area, it will be imperative for the new facility to address the important adjacent streets, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Mitchell Street and Northside Drive.
They will need to improve the pedestrian experience and safety of both of these streets and offer greater connectivity between the Vine City and Castleberry Hill neighborhoods and downtown.
In addition, the stadium visitors would benefit from an easy and safe pedestrian connection to a walk-able, thriving, and well-connected Castleberry Hill Arts and Entertainment district.
The Georgia Dome Site
The existing Georgia Dome site, just north of the new stadium site, is currently planned to serve as surface parking lot for the new Falcons Stadium. This site is large enough to accommodate parking while providing additional exhibition space for the Georgia World Congress Center, and offer the potential for mixed-use development.
This redevelopment site should also offer the pedestrian connection discussed above from Castleberry Hill and the emerging residential districts in Vine City to Downtown, Centennial Park and the Marietta Street entertainment district. Thoughtful planning on this site can spur new development in the surrounding area, by successfully addressing Northside Drive with active street level uses, to calm traffic and improve the pedestrian experience.
The New Braves Stadium
The relocated Braves Stadium will serve as a catalyst for redevelopment of a new mixed-use destination with the potential to create a distinctive fan experience outside of the ball park, similar to other great baseball facilities in major cities.
The site creates the opportunity to address the larger traffic issues impacting our region that could potentially stifle redevelopment of the I-75 corridor if unchecked. The solution to these issues will require strong regional leadership that can earn the public trust and make prudent investments with the future in mind.
This development can also serve as impetus for new regional transportation approaches that reach far beyond the ideas on the table today, such as the proposed rapid transit connection to Kennesaw State University and the Town Center Mall area. The new Braves stadium and the surrounding development will benefit significantly from greater connectivity to downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and Perimeter Center, and traffic patterns will ultimately demand alternatives to accessing the facility primarily from Cobb Parkway, I-75 and I-285.
The Turner Field Site
The vacated Turner Field site offers exceptional views of downtown, and can potentially spark redevelopment of the surrounding districts. This site includes Turner Field and all of the city-owned surface parking lots and offers easy interstate access and visibility.
Rich in history, this site will require a public-private partnership with strong leadership on the public side of the equation. A collaborative approach will be needed to engage all of the stakeholders with creative implementation of the economic development tools available to create a successful new mixed-use district.
A bold new vision for this site can re-energize the development of the south side of our city and serve as a new gateway to downtown Atlanta. There is a great opportunity for increased pedestrian and transit connectivity to downtown and Midtown.
As an architect, I believe in the power of design to improve people’s lives and transform our cities, making them better places to live, work and play. The relocation of two of our major stadiums is a truly exciting opportunity that calls for exceptional leadership, a collaborative approach and innovative solutions. With the proper vision, each of these four sites can be a redevelopment opportunity with positive regional impact and serve as a catalyst for exciting new developments in their surrounding districts.
There is a wealth of planning, design and development expertise in our community that can be utilized to take on these extraordinary challenges, and take advantage of this singular opportunity to reshape development in our region.