MARIETTA — In a 5-0 vote in June, the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a zoning request that allows the Atlanta Braves to build their proposed $400 million mixed-use development to surround their new $672 million stadium.
Calling for commissioners to approve the zoning, Braves attorney James Balli said Cobb County’s motto is “expect the best.”
“The organization that has been in existence for almost a century and a half, an organization that brought us names like Niekro, Aaron, Murphy, Jones and Cox is on its way,” Balli said. “I respectfully contend it is time to finish the process — bring the Atlanta Braves home to Cobb County. They are going to make you proud.”
The parking solution
A point of contention has been where everyone will park when they attend a baseball game. Balli said the main stadium tract will have about 7,000 parking spaces, while the second 13-acre tract on Circle 75 will have another 3,000-plus spaces. Under the development agreement with Cobb County, the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, which owns and operates the Cobb Galleria Centre, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and several parking decks, will provide another 1,900 gameday spaces. And there are 2,050 spaces already approved but not yet built at the Cobb Energy Centre. That gives the Braves 14,000 parking spaces before it looks at leasing space from other property owners in the Cumberland area, an area with 35,000 spaces, Balli said.
“The Braves are actively engaged in negotiations with Cumberland property owners who have parking spaces to lease, in addition to property owners who intend to build new spaces for lease,” he said.
The 8,500-seat Kennesaw State University soccer stadium, Balli told commissioners, provides 20 percent on-site parking.
“They were allowed to do shared parking over one mile away, and we respectfully submit to you that if KSU can fix it for their soccer stadium, the Atlanta Braves will fix it for their Major League baseball team,” he said.
The zoning requires the Braves to comply with the county’s storm water ordinance. Balli said that means the development will not increase storm water runoff “one drop” from when the property was in its undeveloped state.
Balli said the overall point to consider was that existing zoning allowed for “this massive, un-uniform, piecemeal development, and it is extremely rare that you find 74 acres in an urban portion of a metro Atlanta county that can come in as one development. The county can control the entire 74 acres, and it be brought in a process that increases property values and provides for increased quality controls with a unified development of 74 acres.”
Development partner to be named
Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of business operations, said it was just a matter of days before the franchise came to final terms with its development partner for the 74-acre site.
“Now that we have this approval, we have a long list of interested parties, both on the hotel side, office, retail, restaurants. We have meetings later this week with a global entertainment player, and so now that we have the final approval, we’re in a position where you start signing leases,” Plant said.
One thing standing in the way is Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Leonard validating the bonds the county intends to use to finance construction of the stadium. A number of people are challenging the bonds from Larry Savage of east Cobb to Rich Pellegrino of Austell. The judge is expected to issue a ruling by the end of the month. Plant said he wasn’t worried.
“Fortunately, we’re not concerned, but we’re really leaving that to the great people of Cobb here. And obviously they’ve got a big team that’s focused on that as well, so we sit back on that one and let them do the work that they need to do,” Plant said.
A few years ago, Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area, said he and others decided Cumberland lacked people. Quality restaurants and shops wouldn’t locate there because no one lived there.
“So over the course of about a year and a half, I signed off on allowing the construction of 1,100 high-end apartments. A bunch of those are starting to come on line,” Ott said.
The effect is already noticeable with Akers Mill Square full, he said.
“You have a lot more quality restaurants and retail opening up and coming into the area, so the Braves complex is a continuation of recreating the Cumberland core, and so from that perspective, they’re going to build a $400 million development that has an upscale hotel and upscale office space and things like that; it’s totally consistent with the direction that myself and others in the Cumberland area have been trying to do for the Cumberland core.”
Cupid votes yes
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who voted no on the original memorandum of understanding between the Braves and county last November, said the vote was “just a matter of process to me.”
“This is a project that we’ve already approved, and today was determining whether or not we were supportive of the terms of zoning,” Cupid said. “My concerns with respect to parking and community impact were addressed, and therefore felt I could support the deal moving forward and some of the issues I had shared with respect to the deal were not relevant at today’s hearing.”
Cupid’s previous objections included the speed in which the memorandum of understanding was approved.
“I shared on Nov. 26 that although I was frustrated with the terms of the deal, that it was very clear the board overall made a decision to move forward, and I was not going to try to impede that and some people seem to be surprised that there are some things that I have approved, but I felt like I already let my concerns be known. I think people have done the best they could to address them and at the end of the day, the Braves are coming to Cobb.”
The main stadium tract will have about 7,000 parking spaces. The second, 13-acre tract on Circle 75, will have another estimated 3,000-plus parking spaces. Under the development agreement with Cobb County, the authority will provide another 1,900 gameday spaces. And there are 2,050 spaces already approved but not yet built at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. That puts the Braves at 14,000 parking spaces before even beginning to look at leasing spaces from other property owners in the Cumberland area.
Turner Field, by comparison, has only 8,500 official parking spaces.
There are 35,000 identified parking spaces in the Cumberland area. The Braves are actively engaged in negotiations with Cumberland property owners who have parking spaces to lease, in addition to property owners who intend to build new spaces for lease.
The site has 14 major access points.
Project site is 0.01 percent of the upstream Chattahoochee watershed and will have zero effect on Chattahoochee River peak discharges.
The project will collect and re-use storm water, potential uses being irrigation and a cooling tower, as well as the use of pervious material to reduce rate and volume runoff.
Vegetated bio retention areas will be built to provide a combination of water quality, detention and infiltration.
A unified development
“I think the overall point is that the current entitlement for the zoning was this massive, un-uniform, piecemeal development, and it is extremely rare that you find 74 acres in an urban portion of a metro Atlanta county that can come in as one development, the county can control the entire 74 acres and it be brought in a process that increases property values and provides for increased quality controls with a unified development of 74 acres.
“It is an unprecedented size, and I respectfully contend that we will never again see 74 acres in a regional activity center come in under one development. It is simply too expensive to do it that way and only an entity with a 143-year credentials and economic credentials like the Atlanta Braves could pull it off.”
Braves zoning attorney James Balli shared these facts about the new Braves stadium