How to replace Braves Country 

Seven Atlantans share their visions, and warnings, for Turner Field's potential redevelopment

CLEAN SLATE: Dashboard Co-op co-founders Courtney Hammond and Beth Malone think artists could play a key role in redeveloping the Turner Field area should the Braves leave town.

Joeff Davis

CLEAN SLATE: Dashboard Co-op co-founders Courtney Hammond and Beth Malone think artists could play a key role in redeveloping the Turner Field area should the Braves leave town.

If the Atlanta Braves move to Cobb County, monumental changes could take place in neighborhoods around Turner Field. The city would likely demolish the Ted and redevelop 55-acres that primarily consist of sprawling asphalt parking lots. Several Atlantans from different backgrounds described what they think should, and shouldn't, replace the club's longtime home.

Richard Dagenhart, professor at Georgia Tech's College of Architecture, who led an urban design studio that studied Turner Field's parking lots prior to the Braves' announcement

It wouldn't make any difference if the Braves were there. Turner Field could stay or go — it would be the same [plan] just a few more blocks. Because the fringe territory [toward I-20 and the Downtown Connector] is so unworkable, that's where the parking decks would go. It's not an ideal location, but it would include a mixture of uses like housing, some office, and some retail. Maybe [we'd include] some public facility that would bring people from other parts of the city to that area so it would become less isolated. Basically everything would be four to six stories with a mixture of uses.

I would put a park in the middle of it, where Hank Aaron hit his home run, which would probably be just the diamond or the spot where it went over the fence. The commemoration of that event when the Braves were there would be important and would affect how blocks were laid out.

Columbus Ward, president of Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, longtime neighborhood advocate

There could something much greater than it is right now. ... Georgia State University could continue to invest in areas where they are or invest south of I-20. It's a great opportunity to build more student housing. They're in need of a sports complex. Turner Field could become a great stadium for GSU. Students could come that way, live that way. It'd be a great location to relocate the zoo and make a world-class zoo in Atlanta. Take the zoo out of Grant Park and put it in a place where it could serve tourists much better. Begin to start looking to make an Atlantic Station south of Downtown. There are a lot of opportunities to build mixed-use development, retail, and places where people can come. Over the years, the stadium has not brought any development. By Turner Field continuing to be there there's no guarantee that development will come, anyway. Given the history I don't see that happening.

Larry Keating, retired Georgia Tech professor and author of Race, Class, and Urban Expansion, an academic look at Atlanta's urban renewal programs, including Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and the Olympic Stadium

We should remember how the land around the Ted came to its present state because there are civic obligations to the people who lived there before and during "redevelopment." A thriving commercial street along then Georgia Avenue, now Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, immediately in front of the Ted supported by the Jewish and African-American residents of Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, and Summerhill was leveled in the Urban Renewal era, ostensibly for employment generators and low-income housing. Then [former Mayor] Ivan Allen, Mills Lane, and colleagues moved the "goal posts" to bring the Braves from Milwaukee.

For the last 47 years, the low-income folks who remained have endured event traffic with no traffic plans, shopping at now-distant stores, fireworks when the team won (no matter the hour), civic hostility (exaggerated accusations of "you're against the Olympics") if they dared to complain, the gentrification of Summerhill and parts of Peoplestown and Mechanicsville, and parking lots scattered chaotically throughout [the neighborhoods]. It is long past time to honor the nearly 50-year-old promise of low-income replacement housing.

Ryan Gravel, planner and visionary behind the Atlanta Beltline

It's funny to suggest that the No. 1 priority for fans — no matter where they live — is geographic proximity to the stadium. The cost of creating a great fan experience at the new site is far, far more expensive than the modest improvements needed at Turner Field. Build a community where people want to live on those parking lots. Support it with an economy. Keep the team there. Everyone, including the fans, will be much better off.

Michael Leo Owens, Emory University Political Science professor

On the one hand, the potential loss of the Braves is sad. Talk about leaving a hole in the heart of a city. Unfortunately, for-profit teams owe no allegiance to cities, even if cities (and counties) have been nothing but loyal to them. Plus, the lost revenue from the stadium, even if for a brief period, can't be good for the city and county. The talk of government-backed gentrification on the spot makes the situation even sadder. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the middle class but I'm more for the creation of the middle class from the working-class residents already in the area of the Ted. I'm not hearing that as the goal. Instead, I'm hearing, "Lets move the middle-class in via 'affordable housing' and mixed-use development." Furthermore, I imagine a good number of service employees and game-day entrepreneurs, particularly black Atlantans, will lose their jobs with the move, assuming that they can't get to Cobb, which some in Cobb prefer, and that current service employees may have to compete for their jobs after the move.

Since there seemed to be little agreement, and almost zero governance regarding investments to improve the area around the Ted for its incumbent residents while the Braves played there, maybe the move really will create opportunities.

Courtney Hammond and Beth Malone, Dashboard Co-Op co-founders

Duh, fill the field with art. Artists have been uplifting the neighborhood around Turner Field for years when early promises from the Braves' mouthpiece about driving business and economic growth fell flat. In 2012, Dashboard Co-Op hosted a show in a vacant house within earshot of Turner Field. The neighbors we met found [Turner] Field a disrespectful nuisance, but they sure did like having a weird art show next door. This past year, Living Walls showcased a mural exhibition in the area that brought permanent beauty to all that asphalt.

Clearly, there's potential and a willing neighborhood surrounding the island of Turner Field. If the city gives artists the right parameters and invests real capital, well, dare we say it, they'll lob it out of the park.

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