Turner Field: Georgia State’s bid bolstered by 20-year effort to redevelop Downtown Atlanta

By David Pendered

There’s one major reason Georgia State University is viewed as a front-runner in the effort to redevelop Turner Field – GSU has been implementing a vision to redevelop its neighborhood into a walkable community since the 1990s.

Georgia State, Turner Field

Georgia State University, which has filed a proposal to redevelop a portion of Turner Field, already uses the ballpark’s parking lots for student parking. File/Credit: Donita Pendered

Georgia State is part of a three-party team that submitted a response for proposals to redevelop Turner Field. The lead on the team is Atlanta-based Carter, followed by Georgia State and the newly formed Oakwood Development Group.

The other proponents are Mercury Youth Organization, Inc., and Rita World Pearl Kingdom, LLC. Both have a comparatively low profile in Atlanta.

Georgia State has been retooling its campus and environs into a walkable neighborhood since before the official introduction, in 1997, of its Main Street Master Plan.

The master plan outlines a framework for expansion that, while not envisioning an expansion south of the state Capitol, does comtemplate a consolidation of existing infrastructure to address a new philosophy of the university being a leading partner in Downtown Atlanta. The latest update of the master plan, in 2005, was adopted long before the Atlanta Braves announced their plans to exit Turner Field at the end of the 2016 season.

Given that the Turner Field site will be available, GSU’s interest in redeveloping some, or all, of its 67 acres has become the elephant in the room during discussions of future redevelopment. The ballpark already serves GSU students who park at its surface lots and ride the Panther Express shuttle to and from campus.

The philosophy unveiled in Georgia State’s 1997 master plan represents a seismic shift from the institution’s past.

Georgia State, Kell Hall

Georgia State University demolished Kell Hall, named for a past campus leader, to make room for greenspace. Credit: i.imgur.com

GSU students once stayed in a secured compound, a place of elevated skywalks and plazas accessible only from a GSU building. Now, following the implementation of the 1997 master plan, students routinely cross Peachtree Street to reach the Fairlie-Poplar District, where they study at the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts and Helen M. Aderhold Learning Center. They walk off the historic campus to a Student Center and housing. GSU’s architectural plan has evolved from brick walls facing streets, to large glass windows facing streets – which are intended to remove the physical barrier between community with its neighborhood.

Former GSU President Carl Patton was an urban planner and academic leader who guided the new vision. Here’s a snippet of his essay on the topic, published in 2000:

  • “Historically, our master plan was to build these platforms and catwalks to separate the university community from the city … above the common people below. Today our philosophy at Georgia State is quite different … we have flipped our historical philosophy: now we have a goal to be a part of the community, not apart from it. Georgia State will make development decisions that are good for the city if they also fit our academic needs.”
Georgia State, master plan

Georgia State Univesity’s master plan envisions the school being flanked by streets that are pleasant to walk along. Credit: sizemoregroup.com

The master plan provides seven principles that are to guide the university’s growth. Here they are, verbatim:

  1. Integrate the university into the City of Atlanta. (A part of the City, not apart from the City.)
  2. Use structures and systems to connect campus functions.
  3. House 20 percent of a 36,000 student per semester enrollment on campus by 2015.
  4. Support transportation patterns that encourage pedestrian traffic and the use of mass transit.
  5. Create a sense of place and identity.
  6. Establish a central core of campus facilities and a secondary zone for support services.
  7. Create a series of useful Capital Planning Tools.

 

 

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.

8 replies
  1. Chad Carlson says:

    Something that is often left out of the discussion of the redevelopment of this area is actually the thing that should be given primacy–input from the surrounding neighborhoods. If it hadn’t been for dozens of people showing up at the Mayor’s office demanding public input, it would have likely turned into the mayor’s original vision–a casino. Recent statements about this property by the mayor, making threats about moving fast to avoid “lost opportunities”–a now or never approach, it sounds like he is up to his old tricks, i.e., Ft. McPherson. Enough of the short term, political-centric, solutions we are used to getting from the city’s leadership, with little to no community input. We need neighborhood centric, intelligent, long term vision for Turner Field. While it is true that GSU deserves much credit for the development of downtown, the switch in leadership from Carl Patton to Mark Becker has resulted in some disturbing developments, e.g., the selling out of the formerly student run WRAS for $100,000, and the proposed demolition of the historic Bell building to make room for a parking lot.Report

    Reply
  2. Harvey Davis says:

    Chad, Where is the evidence that the Mayor’s vision was a casino which is not legal under GA law? By the way it is Kell hall not Bell and how many people really listened to WRAS… a GSU grad….Report

    Reply
  3. Chad Carlson says:

    Harvey Davis Do a quick Google search “reed casino turner field.” See Brent’s response on the Bell buiding. I am both an undergrad and grad of GSU. I rarely listed to WRAS, but that is not the point. It was student owned and operated for over 40 years, and that is the point–an independent outlet for alternative creative expression and student empowerment. The students were not consulted on the deal with GPB; they were presented with the sell-out after the fact.Report

    Reply
  4. Burroughston Broch says:

    This “competition” is a smokescreen to divert attention from the deal already made between His Dishonor Reed, Gov. Deal, and Hank Huckaby, Chancellor of the University System.
    The fix is in, just like at Fort MacPherson, Underground Atlanta, and the Civic Center.Report

    Reply
  5. SaportaReport says:

    The casino option was shut down due to input from the community. More neighborhoods will see that speaking up can stop unwanted development. Thanks for reading guysReport

    Reply
  6. Burroughston Broch says:

    GSU students never owned WRAS. It was always owned by the State of Georgia through the Board of Regents and GSU. Why do you try to perpetuate this lie after it has been debunked time and again?
    And the State had no duty to consult the students.Report

    Reply
  7. Todd A. Craig says:

    YES! Bring it, GSU. This is an opportunity that comes along once every … 102 years, I’d say. Please involve consultation of your neighbors as you go forward.Report

    Reply
  8. BariBlue says:

    A parking lot that will one day become a GSU academic building. You fail to mention that the Bell building is  not salvageable due to rampant asbestos in the walls. No point in saving something if it’s a health risk.Report

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.