Georgia State University students and residents of neighborhoods near Turner Field stage a march on Tuesday to the downtown school’s Centennial Hall. They sought to meet GSU president Mark Becker to demand a seat at the table in discussions about redeveloping the area around the former home of the Atlanta Braves. LEON STAFFORD/ LSTAFFORD@AJC.COM

Residents, Georgia State students want role in Turner Field plans

Students and residents who hope to one day see grocery stores and dry cleaners in the neighborhoods around Turner Field took their message to Georgia State University on Tuesday.

A group of about 50 people interested in revitalizing what they say has often been neglected and overlooked neighborhoods staged a march and sit-in at the downtown Atlanta school, demanding university leaders commit to community benefits negotiations.

What they want: the basics that other Atlanta neighborhoods enjoy, such as theaters, coffee shops and retail, but without skyrocketing home prices and real estate taxes to drive longtime residents out of the neighborhood.

“We want to make it clear that students don’t want to finance gentrification with their tuition dollars,” said Tim Franzen, a GSU student and resident of the neighborhood.

Georgia state and partners Carter and Oakwood Development are buying the stadium and the surrounding parking lots for about $30 million now that the Atlanta Braves, which played their last game there Sunday, are moving to Cobb County.

The partnership is pitching a $300 million redeveopment plan, which will include housing, classrooms and retail. Turner Field will be repurposed as a football stadium for the Panthers.

But protesters said Tuesday they want GSU president Mark Becker to sit down and discuss a community benefits package that would include businesses and jobs for the neighborhoods that make up the area, which includes Summerhill, Pittsburgh, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown and Grant Park.

Becker was not at the school Tuesday to meet with the protesters. A spokeswoman for the university said the school declined to comment.

“We want to make it clear that we don’t only want what will serve the needs of the university, but will also serve the needs of the community,” said protester Doristine Samuel, who has lived in the area since 1957.

Chanting, “Georgia State can’t you see, what stadiums have done to me,” the group occupied the lobby of Cenntennial Hall, where Becker’s office is, for about two hours.

“They are turning our community into an economic development opportunity and pushing us out of the city,” Jane Ridley, a longtime resident of the community, told the crowd. “We made this community. But you know what, they’re going to listen to us.”

Patricio Cambias, 23, who was born in Chile, said he got involved because friends of his from Peoplestown told him the community thinks Georgia State wants to move them out.

“I don’t like that,” said the 23-year-old political science major. “That’s not my university. We deserve better than that.”

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