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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
J. Scott Trubey, Katie Leslie, Dan Klepal; Staff writers


The Atlanta Braves on Wednesday formally announced new members of its team --- not the one vying for a World Series title, but the development group tasked with making a year-round winner out of a proposed $400 million mixed-use complex surrounding the new Cobb County stadium.

Making the project a success is no small feat, especially with so much at stake for both the Braves and Cobb taxpayers.

The Braves' aim is to create a profitable, 74-acre mix of retailers, restaurants, offices, hotels and residences around the ballpark, near Cumberland Mall. Such a complex, the team anticipates, will draw guests not just to the team's 81 regular season games, but throughout the year.

It was largely on the promise that the complex would create jobs and tax revenue that Cobb commissioners committed more than $300 million in public money to woo the Braves to the suburbs.

"We've said from day one that we are going to have a mixed-use development as part of our ballpark, and this is a significant step toward that," said Derek Schiller, the Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing.

On Wednesday, the ball club confirmed earlier reports that its three primary partners will be Atlanta-based retail developer Fuqua Development, office and mixed-use developer Pope & Land Enterprises and apartment investor and developer Pollack Shores Real Estate Group.

Batson-Cook Development, a Georgia-based subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Kajima, will be an equity partner to the three new members of the development team.

They join other key players, including project manager JLL and master planner The Jerde Partnership.

Schiller said he is "very confident" the Braves can finish the first phase of development as promised by Opening Day 2017, an ambitious time-frame.

Adding more pressure to the mix, no other professional sports franchise has simultaneously built a new stadium and a live-play-work complex this large.

Other large stadium-oriented development dreams, including Ballpark Village in St. Louis, were slowed by recession or scaled back.

Jeff Fuqua and partner Heather Correa said the joint venture has already secured its necessary zoning approvals and has been in talks for months with potential tenants.

"With the power of the Braves and the Cobb County Commission behind the project, it's moving extremely fast," Fuqua said. "To be at this point in a typical development cycle would take two to two-and-a-half years. They did it in seven months. So we're way ahead of the curve."

Attracting shoppers beyond Braves fans and adapting to fit changing needs are critical to the complex's success. The Braves are signed to a lease to play in Cobb County for 30 years, with Cobb and the Braves sharing debt, upkeep and other costs over that time.

"We think about it every day," Fuqua said. "To attract the guests that want to come here every day and shop, eat, drink and recreate, that's the most important thing."

The full project is expected to include 630,000 square feet of Class A or top-tier office space, 500,000 square feet of retail, 450 hotel rooms and 500 apartment or condo units. The complex also will have an indoor concert and events space and could have an outdoor stage as well.

The development nearest the stadium will be geared toward baseball fans and entertainment, he said, but the balance of the complex will feature upscale shops, restaurants and even an organic grocery store. The first phase of the development will house at least 100 retail, restaurant and other business tenants.

"I call it 'Downtown Cobb County,'" Fuqua said. "This will be the hub of the trade area for shopping and entertaining and anything else. It will be a city."

Schiller, the Braves executive, said the team is considering a micro-brewery, chef-driven restaurants and internationally known but first-to-market retailers.

The Braves will own the vast majority of the project and will serve as master developer, Schiller said.

Grading and infrastructure is already underway, and stadium construction will start later this year, he said. Construction of the mixed-use complex will begin six to 12 months after that, he added.

The Braves have said a second phase of the development is slated to open in 2019.

Financing is not yet in place for the mixed-use project, Schiller said.

Mixed-use developments outside of ballparks aren't guaranteed success, said Neil deMause, a New York-based writer who co-authored "Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit."

"The economic spinoff from a stadium is pretty minimal," deMause said. "You get foot traffic an hour before the game and an hour after the game, 80 times a year. That's nice, but it's not something you can stake an entire business on."

"It's nice to have the development team in place, but they also need to get the financing in place, the tenants in place, and that can be a long process," deMause said.

The Braves have said one inspiration is L.A. Live, next to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

But deMause said everyone building a mixed-use development likes to compare it to L.A. Live, because it has been successful. Most of those comparisons aren't valid, he believes, because the Staples Center has two NBA teams and an NHL franchise as tenants, and it also hosts concerts and award shows.

"The Staples Center really is a 365-day-a-year building," deMause said. "On top of that, it's smack dab in the middle of the nation's second-largest urban center. And there's a huge difference between arenas and stadiums. A baseball stadium is going to be dark most of the time, and that's a big difference if you're looking to open a sports bar."

Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the Cumberland area, said a successful private development is crucial for the county to see a return on its investment in the stadium.

Ott said he's pleased with the partners the Braves have chosen.

"They've got a pretty high-caliber group of companies, experienced in each one of those areas, all working together," he said. "It makes me a lot more comfortable."

braves move to cobbFrom Page One

Key parties to the Braves stadium and mixed-use complex

* Pope & Land Enterprises, the development partner in charge of office space, was a partner in 3630 Peachtree, a Buckhead office tower topped by Ritz-Carlton-branded condos. The firm also has been a major player in suburban office development and ownership.

* Fuqua Development was founded by Jeff Fuqua and Heather Correa, who was an executive at Sembler and spearheaded development of the Edgewood retail district, Town Brookhaven and the Prado in Sandy Springs. Fuqua will lead retail leasing.

* Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, Atlanta-based apartment developer and owner, controls or is developing communities in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, including The Jane, a project in Buckhead. Pollack Shores will lead the residential, including market studies to determine the mix of apartments or condos.

* Batson-Cook Development Co. is a seasoned developer of mixed-use, retail, office, apartment and health care projects, including its role in the development of Embassy Row near Ga. 400 and Abernathy Road. Batson Cook is an equity partner with Pope & Land, Fuqua and Pollack Shores.

* JLL, a global real estate services firm formerly known as Jones Lang LaSalle, is the project manager.

* The Jerde Partnership is the Los Angeles-based master planner overseeing the mixed-use project and how it blends with the ballpark.

* Populous is the architect of the Braves stadium.

* American Builders 2017 is the group of contractors --- including Mortenson Construction, Brasfield & Gorrie, Barton Marlow and New South Construction --- who will build the stadium.

Entertainment complex

The Braves said the financing for the project has not been finalized, but the team will be the majority owner of the $400 million project.

tracking progress

A Cobb Superior Court judge last week validated the county's plan to issue up to $397 million in bonds to fund the public portion of stadium construction. The county and Braves have hired a development team to manage stadium construction, and the county is expected next month to hire its own construction consultant to represent the public's interests during construction. Track progress at MyAJC.com/bravesmove.

Braves stadium

A Cobb Superior Court judge last week validated the county's plan to issue up to $397 million in bonds to fund the public portion of stadium construction. The county and Braves have hired a development team to manage stadium construction, and the county is expected next month to hire its own construction consultant to represent the public's interests during construction.

Entertainment complex

The Braves said the financing for the project has not been finalized, but the team will be the majority owner of the $400 million project.

 

July 31, 2014

 

 
 

 

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