Political Insider

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How plans for a revamped Turner Field play into statehouse overhaul

The redevelopment of Turner Field into a mixed-use project with a new Georgia State University stadium and student housing could also signal the next phase in the famed friendship between Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Just up the road from where Georgia State and its partners hope to transform The Ted and the ocean of parking lots into a new Georgia State campus, state planners are envisioning a pedestrian-friendly overhaul of the statehouse grounds.

The $17 million project to demolish an aging parking deck across from the state Capitol and replace it with a grassy Liberty Plaza that could be only the start of a renewal of the area. And the folks behind the Turner Field plans see the remake of the statehouse as a key part of their plans.

Reed, who supports Georgia State's plan, said it would "significantly increase" the school's appeal to students who want a more traditional campus. Georgia State President Mark Becker said he's also briefed leaders of the Board of Regents. At some point, presumably, Deal could also have a say.

If Deal wins a re-election bid, it's not hard to imagine that he and Reed would consider putting more political capital behind a push to revive this struggling part of town, where thousands of state and city workers spend their days, as they wind down their terms in office.

What's unclear is how much public money the project would involve. An early estimate of the 77-acre redevelopment would cost $300 million, though Georgia State University would own less than half the site. Taylor also stressed that the cost of the private-public partnership could rise as plans change.

Whether it could one day end up as a line-item in the state budget is not yet known. But Becker said increasing student fees is a non-starter.

Another idea that's firmly off the table: A Georgia State acquisition of Underground Atlanta, which the city last month said it plans to sell. Rumor of a pending deal had been swirling around the statehouse long before Reed announced plans to unload the property, but Becker said the university has no plans to pursue the 12-acre site.

Translation: The school is firmly behind its bid for The Ted.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.