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Stadium neighborhood residents ask Reed to follow community's lead in Turner Field redevelopment

Residents ask for heightened role in "the biggest development we'll see in our lifetime."

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Sometime after 2017, Turner Field and its sprawling parking lots will be redeveloped when the Atlanta Braves head north to their new home in Cobb County. The residents living in nearby neighborhoods want assurances from the city that the future of the nearly 80-acre swath of land will be guided by their vision of the site — not just a developer's.

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More than 50 people belonging to the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, the broad group of individuals and organizations pushing for a community benefits agreement with a future developer, this morning gathered on City Hall's front steps to ask Mayor Kasim Reed to publicly commit to not selling the stadium site until a formal planning process is complete.

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Last February the Atlanta Regional Commission awarded the city a $212,000 Livable Centers Initiative grant to help plan for life after Turner Field. The LCI study — which will create a roadmap for redevelopment for a more than 1,300-acre area including Grant Park, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Summerhill — is expected to be finished before July 2016.

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The Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, the agency that owns the Turner Field site, is run by six appointees of Reed and three appointees from the Fulton County Commission, which is currently headed by Chairman John Eaves. Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, a loyal ally of the mayor, was recently tapped to run AFCRA, despite major push back from Eaves.

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There's now a growing fear among some residents that the stadium site could be sold without extensive community input from the LCI study. Because of that, residents delivered a letter to Reed's office — along with the offices of the Council and Fulton Commission — formally outlining their expectations for the sale of Turner Field. Reed, who was meeting with President Barack Obama Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett for an event promoting paid family leave, has previously said in statements that he plans to let the LCI process play out. Later in the day, Reed told the AJC that he wouldn't let the "process cost the community a quarter of a billion to a half of a billion dollars worth of development" if the right proposal comes along.

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Richard Quartarone, a former Summerhill resident who recently moved to Grant Park, called Turner Field's redevelopment "the biggest development we'll see in our lifetime." He says developers should participate in the LCI process and create a plan based on their vision.

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At a public meeting last month, Carter, the master developer behind the lone public plan to redevelopment Turner Field, presented the pre-existing proposal to residents, which was promptly criticized. After the meeting, Quartarone says, Carter followed up with a plan that included revisions to the original plan — but no assurances to start over from scratch.

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"It felt very disrespectful after sitting there and hearing a strong consensus where residents said, 'we want you at the table, and everyone at the table,'" Quartarone says. "In their comments, they said, 'it's not about them, it's about the city.' So to get that revised plan, for me, personally, made these types of events necessary to get our city to be open and transparent."

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State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, says some community residents think that Turner Field's redevelopment could parallel what has happened with the city's sale of 330 acres at Fort McPherson to Atlanta filmmaker Tyler Perry. Fort, an outspoken critic of that recently closed deal, says there's major concerns the city will continue to "circumvent the community's needs" and not follow through with the full LCI process.

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"If they were to sell the property before the LCI process is finished, it would be proof positive of that," Fort says. "Their concerns are valid. City Hall, over the last six years, has taken into account what millionaires and billionaires want as opposed what neighborhoods want."

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We've reached out again to Reed's office for comment. If we hear back, we'll post an update.



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