The Atlanta Braves play their first regular season game in their new home at SunTrust Park on Friday. Meanwhile, a group of protesters has taken up residence in tents outside the Braves’ old home at Turner Field.
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They’re demanding a legal agreement from Georgia State University and the developer working on renovating the stadium and redeveloping its surroundings. That’s as other neighborhood organizations are sitting down at the table to work with the school and the developers on their plans.
Clemmie Jenkins, one of the protesters, said she has lived in the nearby neighborhood of Peoplestown her whole life. She’s been coming here during the day, bringing food for the people who are sleeping over. She said she wants promises from Georgia State, which now owns the stadium and is redeveloping the area.
“Like if they’re going to have parking, if they’re going to have jobs,” she said. “And we definitely don’t want them to move anybody out.”
The activists want Georgia State and the developer, a company called Carter, to sign a “community benefits agreement.”
Georgia State President Mark Becker has said that’s not going to happen, partially because state law prohibits some of the terms, like cash payments.
“However, we are working with representatives of the neighborhood associations for Grant Park, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Summerhill,” he said in a video interview produced by the university.
John Colabelli is the president of one of those groups, Organized Neighbors of Summerhill.
“We need to be at the table. We need to be talking to them,” he said.
Colabelli said while he respects their right to protest, the protesters don’t speak for him or his neighborhood. And so far he trusts the school and the developer and their intentions to be guided by a development plan that was created with community input.
“I think these neighborhoods can get better through investment,” he said. “But I don’t want to see them get overrun. I don’t want to see things change so rapidly that you lose the character and you lose the history and you lose the culture.”
Colabelli said on the issue of displacement, he agrees with the concerns of the protesters, but he thinks that government and policymakers have to get involved, too, with laws that support residents as the community changes.
“I don’t think it’s up to GSU and Carter alone to solve the problems of gentrification and, you know, capitalism,” he said.