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.
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.
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.
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.