Braves president John Schuerholz announced yesterday that the team is moving from Atlanta to Cobb County before the 2017 season. Watch a Google Earth video fly-by from the current stadium to the proposed new site in Cobb.

Braves pitch mixed-use project to developers

The Atlanta Braves delivered their pitch to real estate developers Friday, formally opening the search for a partner on a proposed $400 million mixed-use development adjacent to a new Cobb County stadium.

In a 60-page document sent to dozens of major local and national developers, and obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves laid out an aggressive timeline for getting started on a project to put retail stores, restaurants, apartments/condominiums, offices and hotels just outside the ballpark.

“Mixed-use proposals submitted in response … should be tailored to enhance the fan experience and support the creation of a vibrant urban setting designed to complement the Atlanta Braves’ business enterprise,” according to the document prepared by the Braves’ real estate adviser, Jones Lang LaSalle.

The document — called a “request for qualifications,” or RFQ — provides an outline of what the Braves have in mind and invites responses from developers with the experience and financial heft to expand and execute the team’s vision.

The Braves’ plan calls for one-fourth of a 60-acre site in the Cumberland Mall/Galleria area to be dedicated to the stadium, leaving ample space available for a multi-story mixed-use development that would be centered, according to the team’s initial concept, along a pedestrian boulevard leading from Cobb Parkway to the ballpark.

The Braves say they expect 700,000 to 1 million square feet of space in the development’s first phase to open simultaneously with the stadium in 2017. No previous U.S. sports stadium has been built at the same time as an adjacent complex of that type and scale.

“The development will be complementary in nature to the stadium use with the appropriate entertainment components … while simultaneously creating a sustainable mix of retail, office and residential uses for year-round success,” developers were told. “The design of the development must support thousands of fans and fan activities on game days, and a vibrant, mixed-use setting and active street environment on both game and non-game days.”

The mixed-use development is a driving force behind the Braves’ plan to move to Cobb County. Like a number of other Major League Baseball teams, the Braves want to generate substantial revenue outside their stadium, as well as inside.

When pursuing such a development for the parking lots surrounding Turner Field, the Braves proposed an arrangement in which they would receive 25 percent of the revenue or a minimum of $10 million per year. Those negotiations with the city of Atlanta ended last month when the Braves announced plans to build a $672 million stadium on the undeveloped Cobb site.

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 26 approved a deal with the Braves that commits $300 million in taxpayer money toward construction of the stadium — most of it from bonds to be repaid, plus interest, with new and existing taxes. The mixed-use development, which the Braves estimate ultimately will involve an investment of $400 million, will be privately funded.

“Our vision is to marry it all together, the stadium and the development, and create a destination that lives beyond just the 81 days a year of playing baseball,” Mike Plant, the Braves’ executive vice president of business operations, said in an interview in his Turner Field office.

In the document distributed Friday, the Braves asked approximately 50 developers for information regarding their experience with mixed-use projects, their financial strength and their vision for the development, among other things.

And the Braves asked for responses quickly — by Dec. 20.

“It is certainly to make sure people understand, ‘Look, we’re moving. This train is moving down the tracks,’” Plant said.

The document states that a “short list” of three to five candidates will be selected by Jan. 10 with the goal of completing a “partnership agreement” with one of them by March 14.

Kennesaw State University economist J.C. Bradbury, who is closely following the stadium project, said he expects the mixed-use project to draw a lot of developer interest not only because of the crowds Braves games will attract, but also because the area already has a considerable amount of commercial activity and offices.

Bradbury compared the Braves’ strategy to Wal-Mart buying land around its store sites before construction to sell or lease to other businesses.

The Braves are open to considering a variety of financial structures for a partnership with a developer, according to the RFQ document. But in any scenario, the team would retain approval rights over the development’s design and blend of businesses.

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