This morning, it was announced that Georgia State University and its partners have reached an agreement to purchase Turner Field for $30 million with an expectation that the sale will be finalized by the end of the year. The Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition continues to seek a commitment that this development process will work in good faith to ensure that the vision articulated in the Livable Centers Initiative is realized, and that any future development remains transparent and inclusive to the community. The absolute best way to do this is through a Community Benefits Agreement, which was developed by our community as a way to ensure that our needs continue to be met in the coming years.
In its Strategic Plan, Georgia State University expresses that it seeks to be “a leading university engaged in finding solutions to complex challenges faced by cities and their regions today and as they transition to the megacities of the future.” This vision further states that GSU “will continue to leverage our strengths as a center for innovation and creativity, so that we can expand our contributions to the sustainable economic and cultural development of the metropolitan area.”
The Coalition consulted a wide range of experts, community members, and both local and national institutions to develop a comprehensive Community Benefits Agreement Proposal. The CBA Proposal provides opportunities for GSU to both fulfill its general Strategic Plan and incorporate recommendations from the LCI Study which was completed last month. We stand ready to work with GSU to turn our CBA Proposal into a full-fledged agreement that will ensure the project is a success and does not leave the impacted communities behind.
This impending sale also means that it’s imperative that Georgia State University is prepared to join us at the table as a partner and work to establish relationships within the community that currently do not exist. An important way that GSU can engage the community is to establish a community relations office that emphasizes and prioritizes the university’s relations with the surrounding neighborhoods.
Flagship public institutions like the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech have used these offices as mechanisms to prioritize their universities’ relationships with their respective surrounding communities, government agencies, businesses, non-profit institutions, and neighborhoods. This happens through a commitment to coalition-building, active participation in discussions, public engagement and collaborative meetings, and investment in the types of outreach projects that are necessary to build and maintain these relationships. Thus, an active community relations office would be a formalization of the work that Georgia State University has committed to do in its Strategic Plan.
In summation, the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition supports the redevelopment of Turner Field, the Livable Centers Initiative process, as well as the completion of the sales contracts necessary to complete what we hope will be a positive transformation for our communities. But the Coalition also fully supports—and will continue to advocate for—the implementation of a Community Benefits Agreement.