By Maria Saporta
The sale of Turner Field to Georgia State University and Carter closed today – one of the most visible transactions during Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration.
The future of Turner Field was thrown into question when the Atlanta Braves surprisingly announced in November 2014 that they were moving to Cobb County and leaving the location where they had been for nearly 50 years. The Braves lease tend with the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority ended Dec. 31, 2016.
At the time of the announcement, Reed pledged to find a good alternative for Turner Field.
“When this chapter of Atlanta’s history is written, I believe the sale of Turner Field will be counted among the most consequential redevelopment efforts in the life of our city,” Reed said in a statement Thursday. “For the first time in over 30 years, the promise of a best-in-class mixed-use housing and retail development will be realized.”
Reed also praised the neighborhoods around Turner Field as well as Georgia State and Carter for working together to improve the area.
“The redevelopment offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring new amenities, transit and infrastructure to the Southeast stadium neighborhoods of Summerhill, Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh and Grant Park,” Reed said. “The development team will also prioritize minority contractor participation and will ensure affordable housing is available for working families.”
After thanking Georgia State, Carter and Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smith, Reed said: “Finally, I want to thank the neighborhood residents and community leaders for their engagement, thoughtful ideas and hard work in getting this project done.”
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Reed said he had just signed one of the final documents needed to close the sale of Turner Field, which he said would happen any day.
Georgia State,, along with the Carter, Oakwood Development and Healey Weatherholtz joint venture, plan to build a mix of housing, retail, and athletic and academic space on the 68-acre site. Georgia State plans to convert Turner Field into a new home Panthers football.
Within the new ownership structure, Georgia State will control 38 acres, including the stadium and the Blue Lot, formerly the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. The Carter-led joint venture is purchasing 16 acres and ground-leasing an additional 13.5 acres from Georgia State.
The stadium conversion will begin in February, and a future phase of Georgia State’s portion of the redevelopment is planned to include a new baseball park at the site where Atlanta Fulton County Stadium once stood.
“We are extremely pleased to officially acquire the Turner Field site, and we are excited to be moving forward with a plan that will be transformative for the city and for Georgia State,” Georgia State President Mark P. Becker said in a release.
The Carter-led private development team will immediately commence plans for private student housing, market-rate multi-family and retail.
“Our joint venture looks at this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help transform this historic part of our city for generations to come,” said Scott Taylor, president of Carter. “We plan to reposition Hank Aaron Drive as one of Atlanta’s great streets and to strengthen the site’s connection with the surrounding neighborhoods with strong amenities and inclusive design.”
The Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, which owned Turner Field, agreed in August to sell the property for $30 million. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the sale in November.
In an interview in December, Becker also talked about how Georgia State plans to honor legendary Braves player Hank Aaron, also known as the homerun king.
Plans for a Georgia State baseball park will be located on the site of the original Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where Aaron hit his historic 715 homerun. Becker said GSU plans to pay tribute to Aaron and the Braves at that site.
When asked about the future of the Hank Aaron statue that is now in front of Turner Field, Becker said: “The statue will go where Hank Aaron wants it to go.”
For more information on the project, click on stadium.gsu.edu.