Neighborhoods - Turner Field

Five Public Projects that could fundamentally change Atlanta neighborhoods.

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Photo credit: Joeff Davis
EXTRA INNINGS: Once the Atlanta Braves leave for Cobb County, stadium neighborhood residents are cautiously optimistic that new development could improve their quality of life.

The Atlanta Braves will leave Turner Field. That much is certain. The team’s departure for its new Cobb County digs could happen as early as 2017, when the team’s current lease expires and the new stadium should be completed. Though the date is not finalized, Turner Field’s surrounding communities are moving forward with plans to reverse the stadium effect on nearly 80 acres of land.

The area now covered by the stadium’s sprawling parking lots was once known as Washington-Rawson, a historic neighborhood home to Atlanta’s affluent Jewish community. It was razed following the neighborhood’s initial decline during white flight in the early 20th century. A new stadium and highway replaced its city blocks. The sports complex has since smothered nearby Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Summerhill. Local businesses closed. Residential properties had more value as private game day parking lots than family homes.

The city now has a mulligan. Redevelopment efforts will move forward on a number of different fronts. Officials, who have received at least one bid from Georgia State University and Atlanta-based real estate developer Carter, will continue fielding proposals from those interested in the site. A community benefits coalition comprised of neighborhood organizations and other supporters will push for inclusion, a transparent process, and a vision that will revitalize the area 365 days a year. A separate task force will help navigate the redevelopment process’ red tape.

“We could do development differently and it can start with Turner Field,” says Moki Macias, an Anne E. Casey Foundation consultant who’s helping organize the area’s community-benefits coalition. “People should be able to 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.”

There’s no clear consensus yet on what should replace Turner Field. According to NPU-V Chair Micah Rowland, the future Turner site should have a variety of mixed-income housing, a grocery store, and health care services. He’d also like to see better transit serving the community, including more MARTA access or a streetcar line. Suzanne Mitchell, president of Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, envisions the former street grids being realigned, denser development similar to Glenwood Park, or the site becoming home to the next wave of corporate relocations. Not just for the employers, but the employees too.

A casino, horse racing track, amphitheater, or another entertainment project is a no-go for many residents. Georgia State University’s proposed plan to expand its housing and sports facilities alongside some retail and residential projects isn’t the worst idea to some residents. But it wouldn’t generate tax revenue that the area desperately needs, Rowland says. He wants the site to be built for residents. Not tourists, visitors, or students.

If Turner Field is redeveloped with residents in mind, Mitchell says those neighborhoods could one day be mentioned in the same sentence as Buckhead and Midtown. The worst-case scenario? “That things stay the same,” she says. “Doing nothing. Or doing something that doesn’t stand the test of time.”