Turner Field neighbors want a say

Clemmie Jenkins, 65, stands in front of the Emmau House, a community center located in the Atlanta neighborhood of Peoplestown, where she volunteers her time whenever she can. Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal
Clemmie Jenkins, 65, stands in front of the Emmau House, a community center located in the Atlanta neighborhood of Peoplestown, where she volunteers her time whenever she can.
Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal

Georgia State is moving into Turner Field and neighboring residents want to make sure their needs aren’t overlooked during the area’s revamp.

The Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, a cohort of neighborhood leaders and residents wants a benefits agreement included in The Ted’s sale contract to ensure upcoming development will favor residents living near the stadium.

The coalition platform asks developers to deliver a range of neighborhood amenities including a grocery store and other retail outlets catering to residents.

Clemmie Jenkins, a 65-year resident of Peoplestown, said she hopes the developers will provide the community essentials her neighborhood lacks.

“We don’t have a laundromat or pharmacy and we are definitely in a food desert,” Jenkins said. “I would just be in heaven if there was a grocery store I could walk to.”

If an agreement is added, Georgia State and the development team, Carter and Oakwood real estate, would be required to invest in and develop the larger Turner Field community, not just the 67 acres purchased.

Georgia State and its development partners won the bid for Turner Field in December 2015 and the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA), which is selling the land, is currently negotiating the final price tag.

The 67-acre sale includes the ballpark and surrounding parking lots. According to the AJC, the development team plans to turn the area into a mix of apartments, student housing and retail shops. Along with conversion of Turner Field into a football stadium, the total construction cost will be $300 million.

Residents of Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown and other surrounding neighborhoods are concerned the newly developed area will become walled off from the larger community and cater only to Georgia State students and fans.

Resident Columbus Ward said after 50 years of undesirable development in the community, he only wants developers coming in who will work with residents.

“We need any developers who come in to be community partners,” Ward said. “If they aren’t community partners, we don’t need them or anyone else.”

The coalition conducted a neighborhood survey in December 2015 asking residents what they wanted in their community. There were over 900 responses which were used to develop the coalition’s benefits platform.

Educational programs, beautification projects, improved security and affordable housing were among the main points listed on the platform.

Jenkins also said many people in the community are worried the development will cause housing price increases which could displace long-time residents.

“We’re connected through five communities and a lot of us have been here for generations,” Jenkins said. “I hope they don’t overprice houses or spike up rent, then people won’t be able to stay.”

Keisha Lance Bottoms, executive director of the Atlanta and Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA), told The Signal the city will keep in close contact with the Turner Field community but is unable to negotiate a benefits agreement because the discussions will delay the sale further.

“The demand that the negotiation of a purchase agreement be stalled to incorporate a community benefits agreement is a more recent ask, and to comply with yet another request to delay could jeopardize the already fragile timeline in which to complete this transaction,” Bottoms said.

So a benefits agreement will most likely not be added into the sale contract. Instead, Bottoms said, the developers will look after the community’s needs after the contract is signed.

“As part of our ongoing negotiations, the parties are already looking to incorporate language in the upcoming purchase agreement that will assist in ensuring compliance with any forthcoming community benefits agreement,” she said.

 Georgia State student and Mechanicsville resident Renee Martin said she would like to see Georgia State students step up and help make the surrounding communities better.

“A development I would love to see implemented is an urban agriculture center,” Martin said. “The students in surrounding school districts could learn health conscious eating habits and how to grow food for themselves.”

Martin said she thinks the community understands the cost of not creating a coalition to help facilitate development opportunities.  The coalition hopes to be able to meet with the developers after the sale contract is finished to discuss specific benefits.

A sale date has not been confirmed as the purchase agreement is still in negotiations, but the Braves will leave Turner Field in December.