Turner Field: Community taps brakes on signs of fast-track redevelopment

By David Pendered

No one should hold their breath in anticipation of what’s to be built at Turner Field after the Braves depart.

Representatives of Emmaus House, an Episcopal ministry, participated in discussions Wednesday about how the redevelopment of Turner Field could affect their property, located nearby at the corner of Hank Aaron Drive and Haygood Avenue. Credit: Donita Pendered

Representatives of Emmaus House, an Episcopal ministry, participated in discussions Wednesday about how the redevelopment of Turner Field could affect their program and property, located nearby at the corner of Hank Aaron Drive and Haygood Avenue. Credit: Donita Pendered

Overlooked so far in the heady discussions is the local politics of residents who live in neighborhoods near the ballpark. They have an interest in their neighborhoods’ development, as do community leaders who have an eye on jobs to be created during construction and later.

These interests took shape Wednesday during the first meeting of a task force convened by the Atlanta City Council to figure out what should become of the property. For starters, it turns out that Invest Atlanta could take six months to even hire a planning firm to review the existing community development plans, Atlanta Councilmember Carla Smith said.

These sorts of development plans were critically important during negotiations last year over the city’s role in providing up to $200 million to help build a stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

In addition, the beginnings of a movement to call for a community benefits plan is being nurtured by Georgia Stand Up, the same group that factored during the discussions over the Falcons stadium.

Community benefit plans are legally enforceable agreements between developers and stakeholders to address public policy issues related to a development.

The largest black oak in Georgia is in the back gardens of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home. Turner Field is in the background. Credit: Donita Pendered

The largest black oak in Georgia is in the back gardens of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home. Turner Field is in the background. Credit: Donita Pendered

Atlanta has detailed plans to guide, inspire and fund neighborhood development across the city. Plans for the area around Turner Field date to at least the early 1990s and at least one has been updated in the past decade.

These plans share one cornerstone in common: A baseball field for a professional team. Once it’s gone, the existing plans essentially are irrelevant.

“We have four redevelopment plans,” Smith said. “But they all are based on a huge baseball stadium being there. So we need to refocus, to relook at everything and base [new plans] on what we actually want to see there.”

Whoever buys the site has tremendous leeway to build just about anything under a zoning category that was said to be MRC-3.

In Atlanta, the MRC-3 category allows for mixed residential commercial. The density of development, described as floor area ratio, is permitted to be 7.2 times the amount of land on which the development is constructed. For comparison sake, the density allowed in Atlanta’s two other mixed used zoning categories are nearly 1.7 and 3.2 times the size of the building’s site.

Turner Field is flanked by streets lined with crepe myrtle, such as Crew Street just south of the ballfield. Credit: Donita Pendered

Turner Field is flanked by streets lined with crepe myrtle, such as Crew Street just south of the ballfield. Credit: Donita Pendered

Nonetheless, Smith urged residents to devise a plan in hopes that the future developer will be willing to provide at least some of the community’s vision in whatever is built.

“Someone’s going to buy this, so we’re going to have to work with the buyer,” Smith said. “But, at least we’ll have something we can hand him and say – ‘this is what we’d like to see.’”

Some in the crowd of more than 60 residents, who convened Wednesday evening in the Old Council Chambers of Atlanta City Hall, talked of creating some sort of master plan akin to ones created in bygone years by Inman Park and Midtown.

No one mentioned the significance those community plans played in shaping intown Atlanta:

  • Inman Park residents helped derail a proposed freeway through intown neighborhoods to Stone Mountain;
  • Midtown advocates rebuffed the state’s original plan for the 14th Street bridge to be a basic road built atop beams and fought for the scenic one that was built;
  • Ansley Park residents prevented their streets from devolving into cut-throughs between Atlantic Station and Piedmont Park.

    Just south of Turner Field, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home provides care for all those with incurable cancer. Credit: Donita Pendered

    Just south of Turner Field, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home provides care for all those with incurable cancer. Credit: Donita Pendered

The Turner Field neighborhoods contain historic sites, such as this painted and boarded building on Georgia Avenue. The site is the former home of Leo Frank, the only Jewish person lynched in Georgia history. Credit: Donita Pendered

The Turner Field neighborhoods contain historic sites, such as this painted and boarded building on Georgia Avenue. The site is the former home of Leo Frank, the only Jewish person lynched in Georgia history. Credit: Donita Pendered

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.

7 replies
  1. ScottNAtlanta says:

    If this is the same process that the city went through when the original stadiums were built, guess what, they didnt work so well.  There needs to be some sort of new process for these things that makes the area livable and includes the current residents who to say have been screwed in the past would be understatement.  I guess the talk of GSU purchasing the land is no longer out front…its a shame, because that would be a good use of the property that be helpful to all involved.Report

    Reply
  2. dwpendered
    dwpendered says:

    @Guest
    Thank you.
    The headline has been corrected, and I appreciate your good way of bringing it to attention.
    Best regards,
    DavidReport

    Reply
  3. Downtown Guest says:

    ScottNAtlanta GSU is still going through feasibility but President Becker would not have been out there publicly about this nor would Mayor Reed be mentioning GSU at every turn if it wasn’t a better than 90% possibility.Report

    Reply
  4. jamalA says:

    Downtown Guest ScottNAtlanta Hopefully this will be stopped developers in this first serious proposal are talking about replacing one stadium authority with.. ding, ding,.. anthor stadium authority for GSU. Not really the inclusiveness or linking the neighborhoods back together were envisioning. Glad to here someone say F’that!Report

    Reply
  5. Downtown Guest says:

    The proposal includes student residential plus residential condos. I  think its as good as it gets. The idea that suddenly you were going to drop 700 single family homes (think of average city lot size vs. size of property) into an area with zero retail and that is adjacent to the ghetto on 3 sides is a non-starter. There have been 4 studies done on this area in 22 years and zero movement. Wonder why that is? Atlantic Station is Midtown adjacent. Glenwood Park is Little 5 adjacent. There isnt a great demand for single family homes in Peoplestown and Summerhill. This will bring retail (as part of the development) and will create the demand in surrounding areasReport

    Reply

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