Planning for life after Turner Field is about to begin

Stadium neighborhoods receive $212,000 LCI grant to reimagine the area following the Braves’ departure


Sixteen months have passed since Atlanta Braves officials announced that the team will leave Turner Field behind for a shiny new stadium in Cobb County. With their departure date getting closer by the day, many residents are wondering what will replace a site built for America’s pastime but which hasn’t served their needs on a daily basis for decades.

In an effort to plan for life after the Braves’ departure, the Atlanta Regional Commission has awarded a $212,000 grant to the neighborhoods adjacent to Turner Field. The Livable Centers Initiative grant is intended to help reimagine the future of the stadium site and adjacent parking lots. The Turner Field LCI — which will study more than 1,300 acres of land including Summerhill, Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, and Grant Park — was one of eight grants handed out to metro Atlanta communities this year.

City Hall, the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Atlanta BeltLine Inc., and a number of neighborhood organizations will collaborate to devise new plans to address the area’s planning and transportation infrastructure needs. And they plan to do so in a way that is “enhancing and protecting existing neighborhoods” for the long haul. For many residents, that means properly planning for the development — not a first come, first build scenario.

Suzanne Mitchell, president of Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, tells CL she looks forward to working with the city, Fulton County, and other nearby communities to repurpose the Turner Field area in a way that “will embrace the history of Summerhill while addressing the ailments that have plagued our community for decades.” That process includes developing an area that will cater to families, attract commercial businesses, and draw in new retail shops to southeast Atlanta, she says.

The Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, which includes a wide range of groups ranging from neighborhood associations to citywide organizations, will formally launch next month to push for a transparent and competitive redevelopment process for the site. Before a developer is chosen, Moki Macias, an Annie E. Casey Foundation consultant who’s helping to coordinate the groups in the coalition, tells CL that Summerhill, Peoplestown, and Mechanicsville must first work with officials to update their existing neighborhood redevelopment plans. They will also have to revise plans related to the Stadium Tax Allocation District, a funding tool that could help lure developers, but so far has been underutilized.

“It would be a huge mistake if this ends up being a quick-fix development that doesn’t recreate the fabric of a neighborhood,” Macias says. “We could do development differently and it can start with Turner Field. People should be able to look back and say it was a success because people were involved in the process, it spoke to the priorities of the people who live there now and generations to come, and it serves the broadest number of people.”

In a statement, Mayor Kasim Reed says the Turner Field study would launch sometime in 2015. The plan would make recommendations on bring transportation to the area, repurposing the stadium, building new housing, and other potential changes. Remaining funds will help with community engagement and project management, he said.

With the grant in place, the mayor will effectively tap the brakes on moving forward with the site’s sale. At least one proposal, which came from Georgia State University and Atlanta-based real estate firm Carter, has been submitted to the city for the site. According to Reed spokeswoman Jenna Garland, the city does not currently have a timeline for announcing a developer right now.

“The City just won the LCI grant for $200,000, and we are happy to let this process go forward,” she tells CL. “We have been listening and continue to listen to the communities around Turner Field. That’s why we applied for the LCI grant that we won this week.”

Locust Grove, a 5,400-person town in Henry County off I-75, also received a $92,000 grant to help create a new town center. Additional supplemental grants were given to Buford ($100,000), Canton ($104,000), Powder Springs ($80,000), Fort McPherson ($60,000), Chamblee ($104,000) and Norcross ($48,000). A total of 112 communities have received help from LCI’s dating back to 1999 with more than $194 million in planning and implementation grants.

“From urban transitional areas like the Turner Field neighborhoods to bustling suburban downtowns like Locust Grove, LCI grants help communities re-imagine what they can be and then help make those visions a reality,” ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker said in a statement.