Georgia State University and a prominent Atlanta development team want to acquire Turner Field and the sea of parking lots between it and downtown to create a new southern campus for the college and a $300 million mixed-use development that would transform an area threatened by the Braves’ pending departure to Cobb County.
The university wants to convert The Ted into a new 30,000-seat football, soccer and track-and-field stadium and build a new baseball park, academic buildings and green space. A private team led by real estate development powerhouse Carter and Columbia Residential would build private student housing, a mixed-use campus of shops, restaurants, retail and single-family and market-rate apartment homes on a majority of the surrounding area of about 80 acres.
In an exclusive interview with reporters and editors of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia State President Mark Becker and the development team outlined a vision for the area south of I-20.
Their plans – at present only a proposal – coincide with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s recent comments that at least four well-financed development teams have approached the city about the site. The Georgia State-backed proposal also would represent a profound investment in a stadium district that has failed to draw many businesses since the original Atlanta Stadium was built there in the 1960s.
“We are focused on the future for the best possible use for Atlanta and honoring the history and tradition of (the Braves and Olympics),” Becker said.
Financing is not yet known, but Becker said increasing student fees isn’t expected to be part of the financial plan.
Becker and officials with Carter and Atlanta-based developer Columbia Residential said they came forward with their plans Wednesday because they had done as much due diligence as they could and wanted surrounding neighborhoods, the city and the city-county authority that owns The Ted to know of their interest. The school and development team also wants to seek guidance from surrounding neighborhoods and determine the next steps in the process to potentially acquire the site.
The project also would create a new baseball stadium for Georgia State in the footprint of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and preserve the Hank Aaron “wall” that honors The Hammer’s 715th home run.
We want to preserve “the history and tradition of that wall,” said Carter President Scott Taylor, whose group approached Georgia State several months ago. The site also would preserve the Olympic cauldron. He said the team wants to integrate the development into surrounding neighborhoods.
For Georgia State, the project would add potentially 1,200 beds for students and preserve and expand much-needed parking. For the surrounding communities, the project will add fresh retail offerings, restaurants, likely a grocery store, new rental and for-sale housing options and jobs, developers said.
Reed has said he wants the Braves, which plan to play ball in their new Cobb home by the start of the 2017 season, to notify the city whether it intends to exercise options to extend its lease, because the city is ready to act on development proposals.
The lease allows the Braves until Jan. 1, 2016, to officially give notice to the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority of whether it will exercise its first five-year option.
The Braves’ Turner Field lease expires Dec. 31, 2016. Beyond that, the lease gives the Braves options to extend for four successive five-year periods.
It is unclear what the timeline might be for the authority to sell the property. But Becker said if Georgia State and the development team is successful, they would like to break ground by January 2017.
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