Bidding begins for Turner Field

The bidding process for Turner Field is now officially underway.

On Friday, nearly two years after the Atlanta Braves announced their plans to move to a new ballpark in Cobb County, the agency that owns The Ted put it up for sale. The Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority issued a long-awaited request for proposals that will guide redevelopment of the ballpark and possibly redefine the hard-scrabble community’s identity.

The documents outline a competitive and sealed bid structure, with bids due by Nov. 20. The chosen developer, the RFP states, will be the one deemed best able to create an “economic anchor” that spurs new development, creates jobs, generates taxes, integrates the area into downtown, includes workforce housing — if housing is part of the winning plan — and improves transportation access.

The authority is seeking a developer who can complete the project within five years.

The RFP’s release comes a week after authority executives told an anxious crowd of residents near Turner Field that the sale must happen quickly, as the Braves will leave the ballpark by the end of next year.

Many residents of Summerhill and Peoplestown, among others, have called for officials to hold off on selling the stadium and surrounding parking lots until the completion of a grant-funded community study next summer.

The Turner Field site is expected to fetch the attention of developers from Atlanta and beyond. The recreation authority selected global real estate services firm CBRE to market the site.

The RFP covers six parcels, including the ballpark, totaling 67 acres of land. The Turner Field site is nearly 80 acres, but AFCRA executive director Keisha Lance Bottoms said the media lot, lots west of the Downtown Connector and FanPlex are not included in the bid.

The proposal’s objectives include renovating or re-purposing the stadium or creating an “iconic” structure to replace it.

The objectives also call for the project to honor the site’s sports history, including slugger Hank Aaron’s 715th and 755th career home runs, the Braves’ 1995 World Series title and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

The RFP requires the potential buyer to “demonstrate a commitment to incorporating” recommendations from the community development study.

District 1 council member Carla Smith said she’s “very happy” the RFP addresses the Atlanta Regional Commission-funded study. And Wanda Rasheed, a Summerhill resident, said she was guardedly optimistic that would-be developers will be scored on their consideration of community input.

“I want to make sure the voice of the community is heard and that we’re not just given lip service,” she said.

Just what will become of the longtime home of the Atlanta Braves has been a hot topic for stadium communities since the team announced its departure in late 2013.

At the time, Mayor Kasim Reed promised “one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had.” He has since dropped hints about a number of suitors interested in the site, including casino developers.

MGM Resorts International has scouted downtown for a $1 billion-plus casino resort, and other gambling interests are gearing up to lobby for a change to Georgia’s Constitution that would allow Las Vegas-style gambling.

Reed has said he doesn’t support gaming, but that it would be “fiscal malpractice” not to consider their proposals.

The mayor has been most supportive, however, of a plan by Georgia State University and real estate firm Carter that involves a $300 million mix of student housing, apartments, retail and the conversion of Turner Field into a football stadium.

Scott Taylor, president of Carter, said his firm will bid and he expects many others will, too.

“We look forward to sharing our vision as it has evolved over the past year and half,” Taylor said, adding it will reflect community’s input and aspirations.

Fulton Chairman John Eaves, who has called for the county to have a greater role in the process that’s been publicly led by Reed, said he was heartened to see affordable housing and equal business opportunity components, among others.

“I’m generally supportive and optimistic. I think there is more openness for community engagement than what was perceived a few months ago,” he said. “I felt that Fulton County’s influence is present.”

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