The Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition has been actively involved in articulating and advocating for the needs of the stadium’s impacted communities for nearly two years. The Coalition, representing several neighborhood associations, religious institutions, and civic organizations, organized in an effort to ensure that the redevelopment of Turner Field and its surrounding parking lots is done in a way that’s democratic, sustainable, and community-oriented.
Since the Atlanta Braves announced their departure from Turner Field three years ago, our community members have been working tirelessly to ensure that the redevelopment of the stadium and its adjacent parking lots is done with the community’s interests in mind. The Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition has worked since then to draft a Community Benefits Agreement proposal and ensure that the development would work for everyone in the impacted neighborhoods.
We knew of the work done by Columbia University when it signed a Community Benefits Agreement in West Harlem, which ultimately signaled the university’s deep commitment to the sustainability and vibrancy of the affected community. We also knew of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District Community Benefits Agreement which helped support the neighborhoods surrounding the Staples Center during the redevelopment of that community. We were also familiar with Georgia State University’s Strategic Plan, in which the 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 plan 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 [metropolitan Atlanta].” With these in mind, we were hopeful that Georgia State University would be an active partner in working to ensure that a Community Benefits Agreement would be implemented in Atlanta for the first time in recent memory.
We are disappointed that this has not been the case. Georgia State University has been both non-committal and absent from the community engagement process, despite multiple communication and correspondence attempts by the Coalition and its members. To raise awareness, the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition conducted a direct action on September 7th intended to garner a response from the university.
President Mark Becker responded with a letter claiming to have been working with neighborhood and community leaders to move the project forward, citing the Livable Centers Initiative and the City of Atlanta’s re-zoning efforts as the university’s primary mechanism for engagement. While these processes recommend potential solutions to the infrastructure and transportation challenges facing our communities, they are inadequate in addressing the negative externalities that impair health outcomes, worsen flooding, and engender displacement.
On Tuesday, October 4th, the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition and Neighborhood Planning Unit V residents will rally with Georgia State University student allies in Hurt Park to deliver a community-signed petition to the Office of GSU President Mark Becker. We will demonstrate why a Community Benefits Agreement is so critical for our communities and will request that Georgia State University formalize its relationship with the affected communities.
Flagship public institutions like Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia have prioritized 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. We simply ask for Georgia State University to set out to do the work it’s committed to do in its Strategic Plan. It’s imperative that Georgia State University commit 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 to implement a Community Benefits Agreement.
Statement Concerning the Turner Field Sale Agreement