Turner Field deal with Georgia State signals ‘new beginning’


Coming Sunday

A deeper look at the deal to sell Turner Field and surrounding parking lots to Georgia State University and partners Carter and Oakwood Development.

The sale of Turner Field

Price: $30 million for 67-acre site including stadium

Buyers: Georgia State University Foundation, development groups Carter and Oakwood Development

Closing date: Dec. 31

What will become of The Ted? It will be renovated into a Panthers football stadium.

What else is planned? Student housing, apartments, single-family homes, classroom space, a grocery store and a Panthers baseball field, likely on the site of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Developer commitments: Keisha Lance Bottoms, the head of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, said Carter and Oakwood Development agreed to include "a significant workforce housing component" and 28 percent participation by minority- and female-owned business enterprises in the project. If closing extends beyond Dec. 31, Georgia State and the developers would share in the cost of stadium upkeep until a deal is final.

What will residents see first? Carter President Scott Taylor said the team plans to "activate" the corner of Georgia and Capitol avenues with pop-up shops and possibility other smaller scale retail and residences as soon as possible. A student housing project also could be one of the first projects to start construction I-75/I-85.

Fate of monuments: The Hank Aaron statue will remain in the city. Georgia State has expressed interest in keeping it on the property. The Olympic cauldron will remain where it is at least for now, Georgia State President Mark Becker said.

Georgia State University is a 103-year-old, fast-growing research university in downtown Atlanta that will have the state’s largest student population, more than 52,000, when it completes a merger with Georgia Perimeter College. It offers more than 250 degree programs in 100 fields of study from bachelor’s to doctoral levels and is one of Georgia’s premiere universities, along with Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

The heart of the campus is more than 40 buildings off I-75/85 west of Grady Hospital and north of the gold-domed Georgia State Capitol. The university built some of its campus, while others are historic former bank, office and business buildings that have been refurbished.

Georgia State has expanded through downtown rapidly, as it grew from a commuter school to one that has 4,000 students living on campus. The expansion onto Turner Field property will give the school more space for new student housing.

It has a diverse population of students and has become known nationally for keeping students in school by closely tracking them an offering help at the first signs of trouble.

The university fields 16 NCAA Division I teams, sent its basketball team to the NCAA Tournament most recently in 2015 and fielded its first football team in 2010.

The sale of Turner Field

Price: $30 million for 67-acre site including stadium

Buyers: Georgia State University Foundation, development groups Carter and Oakwood Development

Closing date: Dec. 31

What will become of The Ted? It will be renovated into a Panthers football stadium.

What else is planned? Student housing, apartments, single-family homes, classroom space, a grocery store and a Panthers baseball field, likely on the site of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Developer commitments: Keisha Lance Bottoms, the head of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, said Carter and Oakwood Development agreed to include "a significant workforce housing component" and 28 percent participation by minority- and female-owned business enterprises in the project. If closing extends beyond Dec. 31, Georgia State and the developers would share in the cost of stadium upkeep until a deal is final.

What will residents see first? Carter President Scott Taylor said the team plans to "activate" the corner of Georgia and Capitol avenues with pop-up shops and possibility other smaller scale retail and residences as soon as possible. A student housing project also could be one of the first projects to start construction I-75/I-85.

Fate of monuments: The Hank Aaron statue will remain in the city. Georgia State has expressed interest in keeping it on the property. The Olympic cauldron will remain where it is at least for now, Georgia State President Mark Becker said.

About Georgia State

Georgia State University is a 103-year-old, fast-growing research university in downtown Atlanta that will have the state’s largest student population, more than 52,000, when it completes a merger with Georgia Perimeter College. It offers more than 250 degree programs in 100 fields of study from bachelor’s to doctoral levels and is one of Georgia’s premiere universities, along with Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

The heart of the campus is more than 40 buildings off I-75/85 west of Grady Hospital and north of the gold-domedGeorgia State Capitol. The university built some of its campus, while others are historic former bank, office and business buildings that have been refurbished.

Georgia State has expanded through downtown rapidly, as it grew from a commuter school to one that has 4,000 students living on campus. The expansion onto Turner Field property will give the school more space for new student housing.

It has a diverse population of students and has become known nationally for keeping students in school by closely tracking them an offering help at the first signs of trouble.

The university fields 16 NCAA Division I teams, sent its basketball team to the NCAA Tournament most recently in 2015 and fielded its first football team in 2010.

Georgia State University and its partners have signed a deal to buy Turner Field and much of its surrounding parking lots, moving a proposed $300 million transformation closer to reality.

The deal for the 20-year-old former Olympic Stadium and soon-to-be former home of the Atlanta Braves brings clarity to an area whose future has been clouded since the Braves announced its move to Cobb County nearly three years ago. The proposal — one of the largest south of I-20 in decades — features housing, retail, classroom space and the conversion of Turner Field into a Panthers football stadium.

“Turner Field may no longer be a baseball stadium, but it will still be a field of dreams,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said at a Thursday press conference.

Atlanta was rocked by the Braves’ November 2013 decision to bolt for the suburbs. In the immediate aftermath, Reed promised “one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had.”

Thursday’s announcement, he said, “represents a new beginning for the entire southeast quadrant of our city, and it represents a promise kept to a community that has persevered and has remained strong against daunting odds.”

The $30 million sale is expected to close by Dec. 31. But it is just one step in a mammoth redevelopment effort, and a number of questions remain.

Scott Taylor, president of lead development partner Carter, said the development partners will fund their portion of the project through their own equity, investor dollars and financing from major financial firms. About 70 percent of the development value will go on the tax rolls.

Georgia State’s financing is less clear.

The school’s foundation is purchasing its share of the land. The university’s plan to buy the land from the foundation requires approval from the state Board of Regents, Georgia State president Mark Becker said Thursday. It is not clear when that might happen.

He has previously said the university’s share of the project would be between $100 million and $150 million. At that time, Becker said no state funding, or an increase in student fees would be needed.

Officials with the Regents and Georgia State declined to answer any additional questions regarding funding for the deal.

Chris Riley, Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff, expressed some concern.

“The governor is excited to learn more about this project but anytime a project of this magnitude can move forward without any state funds we should encourage (it),” Riley said.

Becker has rejected questions about Georgia State’s financial capacity, particularly with its long list of completed developments in the downtown area.

Taylor showed no concerns about Georgia State ability to fund the project or lenders’ interest in the project.

“There is extreme interest in this project and many people want to be a part of it,” he said. “We are not concerned about that (obtaining financing).”

The Georgia State team unveiled its vision for the site in May 2014, and last December were named the winning bidders.

Becker credited Reed's team for expanding the vision to include honoring Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron and the city's sports legacy as well as for the project's potential for urban renewal. The development plan, while still evolving, also will include a Panthers baseball field, likely at the site of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, with a tribute to Aaron's 715th home run.

Taylor said his group is also examining business incubators and other ways to spur job creation and wants “to make Hank Aaron Drive one of the greatest streets in the United States of America.”

The area could eventually see greater MARTA bus service and streetcars to the Atlanta Beltline if city voters in November approve a half-penny sales tax to fund an expansion of MARTA, Reed said.

For students, Turner Field would be the latest in a string of Georgia State projects anchoring downtown that have transformed the university into one of the nation's largest.

“This makes Georgia State even more of a complete school and it’s exciting to see what else Georgia State can bring to the Turner Field area,” said Fortune Onwuzuruike, 21, Georgia State’s student government president.

As time of the Braves departure approached, the city and the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority faced both anxious residents and the prospects of millions of dollars in annual upkeep costs going to taxpayers.

“This is not an easy transaction,” said authority chief and city councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, who led negotiations. “The reason it was not easy is that we knew that we had people like you (residents) that we knew we had to answer to.”

The Georgia State plan hasn’t been without controversy, with some neighbors expressing angst about potential effects on nearby neighborhoods and concern that community voices would not be heard during planning.

Jason Dozier, a representative of the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, said he hopes a formal deal will bring the buyers to the table on a community benefits agreement mandating certain project design elements, jobs programs and steps to prevent displacement.

“We stand ready work with Georgia State,” he said.

A community-driven master planning effort has been underway while the recreation authority and the Georgia State team were in negotiations.

Last month, planners unveiled concepts of that study, which call for a denser and more walkable community across more than 1,300 acres and parts of five neighborhoods near Turner Field. Georgia State and its partners have pledged to incorporate ideas from the plan into their own.

Taylor, the Carter president, said “there are a number of community benefits embedded into our overall plan, which will become apparent in time.” He said it is too early to discuss a potential formal agreement.

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.