On September 19th 2016, Atlanta City Council voted to support ordinance 16-O-1411, legislation co-sponsored by Councilmembers Carla Smith, Cleta Winslow, and Joyce Sheperd amending the City of Atlanta’s 2011 Comprehensive Development Plan so as to incorporate recommendations from the Turner Field Stadium Livable Centers Initiatives study.
While the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition recognizes the need for City Council to move forward with the implementation of the LCI ahead of the sale to Turner Field, we continue to implore all stakeholders, be it Georgia State University, Carter, or our elected officials, to wholly commit to ensuring that a negotiated Community Benefits Agreement is implemented as well. The renderings presented by the LCI team to the community are inspirational, but it also remains aspirational until there are concrete commitments from key stakeholders. The LCI gives us a blueprint of how inclusive transformation regarding connectivity and accessibility could occur, but without a CBA there’s no guarantee that that’s what we’ll see. There is certainly no guarantee that the university trustees, business executives, and elected officials making promises to the impacted communities today will be in positions of power or influence five years from now, let alone on the day of groundbreaking. A Community Benefits Agreement would be the constant which ensures that these promises are kept.
While an ordinance encouraging the study’s findings advanced through the legislative process, parties representing a development team including Georgia State University and Carter were negotiating a sale agreement with the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority. On August 18th 2016, Mayor Kasim Reed 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.
As we’ve stated all along, the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition supports the redevelopment of Turner Field, the Livable Centers Initiative process, as well as the zoning processes necessary to transform the parcels of land that currently surround Turner Field. This impending sale means that it’s imperative that Georgia State University commit to to join us at the table as a partner and work to establish relationships within the community that currently do not exist and make definite commitments. 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. This and more would be articulated through the implementation of a Community Benefits Agreement. Both a CBA and the LCI recommendations are powerful and necessary tools for true public engagement.