Turner Field Stadium Neighborhoods lci application for gpa’s 2016 Outstanding Planning Process Award

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Turner Field Stadium Neighborhoods LCI Application for GPA’s 2016 Outstanding Planning Process Award
The Turner Field Stadium Neighborhoods Livable Centers Initiative (TFSN LCI) has been an outstanding planning process, exceeding the expectation of all involved in the development of the plan and it is an excellent candidate for the Georgia Planning Associations 2016 Outstanding Planning Process Award.
With the Braves playing their final season downtown and the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority actively negotiating the sale of the property, this community plan has the potential to reshape the southern side of downtown Atlanta. The TFSN LCI public engagement process reached over 1600 community residents and stakeholders, and provided the critical feedback needed to build a bold and visionary plan that benefits everyone. Not only does the TFSN LCI study area include Turner Field, it encompasses several of the city’s historic neighborhoods that have been negatively impacted by the stadiums and urban renewal projects of the last half century.

In response to the Braves’ announcement that they would be leaving Turner Field, Atlanta City Council adopted a resolution in December 2013, sponsored by City Councilwoman Carla Smith, to create a taskforce to make recommendations for commercial and residential development, public safety and transportation opportunities in the vicinity of Turner Field. The task force was charged with identifying issues currently facing the neighborhoods and providing recommendations that will promote a vibrant and safe community after the Atlanta Braves leave Turner Field. Their initial recommendation was to update the Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown redevelopment plans. Instead of focusing on the individual neighborhood plans, the City of Atlanta and Invest Atlanta with matching funds from Annie E. Casey Foundation and with the support from the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority and surrounding neighborhoods applied and were awarded a Livable Centers Initiative Grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission. The LCI goals of providing access to a variety of travel modes, encouraging a mix of uses and developing an outreach process that promotes participation from all stakeholders set the foundation for the planning process. The LCI Study Area included 1,340 acres, four neighborhoods: Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown and a portion of the Grant Park neighborhood, the Stadium Tax Allocation District and Turner Field Stadium and its parking lots at the center. The City of Atlanta Office of Planning in the Department of Planning and Community Development spearheaded the planning process. A talented team of consultants led by Perkins + Will, included Contente Consulting, Kimley-Horn, Assoc., Bleakley Advisory Group, HR&A Advisors and Neighborland comprised the planning team.

Prior to the start of the planning process, a team led by Carter and Georgia State University proposed a plan for the reuse of the stadium and site. Neighborhoods stated their preference for developing a plan for the area with community input. They continued to express their desire for this type of planning process at the time that the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA) released the Request for Proposal to sell 67 acres that included Turner Field and its surrounding parking lots. With this in mind, the AFCRA RFP directed the respondents to demonstrate a commitment to incorporating redevelopment recommendations from impacted neighborhoods and community groups as set forth in the LCI study results; and that recommendations that emerge from the LCI study will, where feasible, be incorporated in the negotiations of a final project Proposal; and also directed the selected bidder to begin immediate participation in the LCI study process.
The TFSN LCI started with a public meeting in December 2015. During the planning process, the planning team held a kick-off meeting, several public workshops, neighborhood meetings, focus groups, a festival and open house. After formal presentations, meeting attendees could visit one of five stations - ASK, LEARN, WISH, SHARE and ENAGAGE. ASK:  Participants could ask the planning team questions. LEARN: participants could learn from the planning team and vice versa. By pinning comments to a large scale map of the study area, participants identified challenges and opportunities in the areas of transportation and connectivity, development and land use, services and amenities and recreation and open space. WISH: A wish list of the community’s aspirations was created at this station. SHARE:  participants shared information about the culture of their neighborhood. ENGAGE: Community residents and stakeholders signed up to participate in stakeholder interviews and focus groups.  The process, which engaged over 1600 community residents and stakeholders, was carried out in collaboration with the Project Management Team and the Core Team who acted as sounding boards from the beginning and provided critical feedback needed to build an LCI plan that benefits everyone.
In December 2015, the City of Atlanta, in partnership with Invest Atlanta, held the TFSN LCI kick-off Meeting at Fanplex (the on-site planning “lab” where most of the community events were held). Approximately 200 community residents and stakeholders were in attendance to learn about the eight-month planning process, previous planning efforts and how to stay informed and involved. In January, 2016 the Core Area Visioning Workshop took place and more than 250 participants gathered for an interactive exercise that focused on Turner Field and its surrounding parking lots. In March, neighborhood workshops were conducted in Peoplestown, Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh and Grant Park neighborhoods. Activities centered on Transportation, Land Use, and Cultural Assets. The common themes discovered during all of the workshops formed the foundations for the plan recommendations and design concepts which were presented back to the community in the following months. In April, the planning team unveiled the core area design concepts to 400+ visitors at Atlanta Streets Alive (see attached file with concept boards). Lastly, at an Open House in June, plan recommendations were presented and the community provided final feedback on the projects proposed for the LCI as a whole. Transportation, development and open space recommendations were vetted through an Open House format, as residents and stakeholders shaped an inclusive vision for the area. Input was also provided through online tools such as the Stadium Neighborhoods LCI’s website www.stadiumneighborhoodslci.org, social media and Neighborland’s interactive platform. Atlanta Public Schools also conducted an extensive survey that included 1700 students in the area. The Media – print, web and TV - provided extensive coverage of the planning process and its recommendations (see attached media summary).

  • Innovation of concept- The Core Workshop was an innovative exercise designed to match preferences for the physical vision of Turner Field and surrounding parking lots and undeveloped land with the metrics and values needed to realize the vision. The planning team provided participants with a series of local and national neighborhood examples which had different activity scores based on their population and development densities (the activity score accounted for residents, employers, shoppers, students and visitors). Based on their activity score, the neighborhoods were given a community character category: Regional Center, Active Urban District, Urban Village and Quiet Neighborhood, each supporting a different range of services (e.g., bus vs. light rail). The community was then encouraged to select their ideal activity score for the core area based on the community character categories and their corresponding amenity index. Using 3D blocks to achieve such score, participants were challenged to balance neighborhood character with urban density and to build out the footprint of the Core Area that reflected the selected community character. The 3D blocks represented various types of development, from single family houses to mixed-use buildings to street network and open space. With the aid of an app developed by the planning team, the final activity score was calculated based on the amount of blocks used to build the development of the core area (see attachment for description and illustration). The built-out community was placed in wood model of the core area.

  • Transferability to other areas or projects: The three-dimensional wood model of the Core Area as well as the 3D blocks of single family homes, townhomes, apartments, multi-story development, greenspace, and street network facilitated collaboration between stakeholders in developing a unified vision that future development should embody. All the elements are positive aspects that come with careful design and high-quality execution. These aspects were translated into thirteen place-based design parameters which evolved into a design brief for the planning team. With these insights the planning team set to work on three options that reflect different approaches to achieving the community’s desires. The 3D model and blocks are now being used by the new Atlanta Design Studio as learning tools for design, density and development. This workshop format can be used on any other site with a site map at the same scale as the blocks.

  • Quality of thought, analysis and character: The planning process and deliverables were infused with quality. The planning recommendations are based on existing conditions, a housing market study, non-residential market analysis, transportation analysis, urban design principles and community input. In order to keep everyone informed, videos summarizing the work completed to date were shown at the beginning of meetings (the videos are too large to attach but can be viewed on the project website at www.stadiumneighborhoodslci.org). To illustrate development concept plans, three high quality site plans with accompanying bird’s eye view renderings were prepared. High quality and easy-to-understand street cross sections with existing conditions and recommendations were made. Four 3-D visualizations of the core area concepts illustrate transportation recommendations along with redevelopment concepts (see attached example).

  • Effectiveness of, or promise for, Implementation: With Georgia State and Carter acquiring 67 acres in the middle of the LCI, Implementation of the LCI recommendations will start sooner than any other City of Atlanta LCI. The Carter team participated in the Core Team and community meetings and are fully aware of community priorities. In addition, the RFP stated that the recommendations of the LCI should be factored in to the development proposal. Finally, Councilmember Carla Smith initiated the rezoning of the land to be purchased. The conditional rezoning stated that the development should incorporate the elements in the conceptual plan and design parameters.

  • Comprehensiveness of principles observed: The TFSN LCI plan encompasses land use, urban design, transportation, housing and commercial analysis and recommendations. Concurrently, American Rivers analyzed sustainable stormwater management opportunities both on and off the catalyst site. The planning process started with a thorough analysis of existing conditions, and was informed by community input and current best practices in each of the topic areas. This resulted in recommendations focused on addressing the existing and future needs of the community and meeting the vision established through the planning process.

  • Strong effort to solicit Public Participation: Community involvement was an essential component of the planning process with several team members dedicated expressly to that task. Both digital and conventional communication techniques were used, and the planning team stressed engagement that was both educational and fun, connecting to local culture and tradition wherever possible. One of the highlights was the Open House during Atlanta Streets Alive. On April 17, 2016 the Turner Field Stadium Neighborhoods LCI planning team participated in this half day-long festival event to unveil and receive feedback on three development concepts for the redevelopment of Turner Field and its surrounding parking lots. The LCI display tent was staged on the corner of Hank Aaron Drive and Georgia Avenue just north of Turner Field. The festival route down Georgia Avenue brought an estimated 80,000 visitors to the stadium neighborhoods and provided the perfect opportunity to present the design concepts to the public. Over 400 participants responded to a survey designed to solicit impressions on the three concept plans. And as an incentive to participate, the planning team recreated French’s Ice Cream, a business which was located on Georgia Avenue from 1921 to 1964. The pop-up ice cream parlor offered free ice cream from local food truck Vintage Frozen Custard for survey respondents.

  • Use of Technology in planning processes: Technology was used in the planning process to facilitate community engagement, especially through social media and customized software. geo-referenced online community input was gathered continuously through the application of Neighborland tools and techniques (Neighborland is a web based software startup that allows collaboration with stakeholders in an accessible, participatory, and enjoyable way). In addition, for the Core Workshop, an I-Pad app was developed by the project team to analyze activity scores for a range of urban neighborhoods and to calculate the activity scores of the neighborhoods designed by participants in the Core Area workshop.

  • Demonstration of Equity in planning processes and implemented projects: Prior to the start of the LCI plan, community groups and residents were concerned that the sale and redevelopment of Turner Field and surrounding parking lots was proceeding without meaningful input. The LCI process was designed to allow for significant community participation. Community input was solicited at all of the meetings, and the planning team made it a point to discuss each neighborhood’s aspirations on their own turf. The team also worked with the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, folding in the results of their initial survey as a point of departure. Finally, in addition to the many workshops, stakeholder interviews were conducted with neighborhood presidents, seniors, business owners. Recommendations were made for the entire study area.

  • Integration of Sustainable practices to mitigate adverse impacts from development and everyday living: As part of the Turner Field Stadium Neighborhoods Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), a planning effort to address redevelopment of the Core Area as well as surrounding neighborhoods, planning partner American Rivers conducted an assessment of the potential for green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) to provide stormwater runoff reduction to both alleviate flooding downstream and provide additional quality of life benefits associated with GSI. Based on the watershed assessment, American Rivers recommends within the Core Area capturing and infiltrating the 95th percentile storm on site using GSI, which in Atlanta equates to 1.8 inches of rainfall in 24 hours (an aggressive goal but could capture up to 3.4 million gallons of runoff on site). Taking an approach such as this to the redevelopment of the Core Area will help reduce the burden of recurring floods on downstream communities, while simultaneously improving the overall livability of the community using GSI. American Rivers also recommends utilizing interstate right-of-way for stormwater capture and infiltration, which has been met with interest by GDOT.

  • Demonstration of collaboration and partnerships with state and local governments, other public entities, private entities, nonprofit entities, or other non-traditional partners. The success of the TFSN LCI planning process is possible through partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders. These include quasi-governmental agencies- Invest Atlanta and MARTA, non-profits: Annie E. Casey Foundation and AARP, advocacy organizations- Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, neighborhood organizations – Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, Grant Park Neighborhood Association, Peoplestown Neighborhood Association, and Community Development Organizations. We are especially proud of the work with Atlanta Public schools in collaboration with the APS main office, two High Schools and one Middle School whose attendance zone overlaps the study area. The TFSN LCI team worked with one of the HS’s student government association to develop a survey that each student government would administer. Over 1,700 students participated in the survey, giving the team surprising insights into the preferences of a population group that normally does not get involved in planning.

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