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Mixed-use development plans evolve

Development adjacent to SunTrust Park an integral part of project

Nov. 13, 2014

Part III of IV: By Jared Burleyson

Read Part IV | Read Part II | Read Part I
Watch: SunTrust Park, Year 1 time lapse »

As the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta Braves' announcement to move to a new world-class ballpark and adjacent mixed-use development passes, Executive Vice President of Business Operations Mike Plant and Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Derek Schiller sat down to discuss the move and the progress made over the past 12 months. The two are just a pair of the many executives and partners who are working to bring this project to fruition.

The Braves' move 12 miles north will not just be for a new ballpark. SunTrust Park will be unlike any of the 29 other Major League Baseball ballparks and countless other professional sports venues around the country.

The new home of the Braves will be a first of its kind: a new destination that will simultaneously integrate a state-of-the-art Major League Baseball ballpark with a new multi-use development and community. SunTrust Park will not only offer the game on the diamond, but just outside its gates, restaurants, shops, offices, a hotel and residential spaces will directly connect to the ballpark itself.

"We're building an experience that extends well beyond the confines of the ballpark and putting it to a broader mixed-use community for those that want to come early for a game or stay after," said Derek Schiller, Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing. "By controlling the rest of the development, we can ensure that's going to happen, not only when we first open, but throughout our 30-year agreement."

The trick was figuring out where to start since nothing like this had ever been done before.

"We wanted to take our depth and experience in creating engaging fan environments and build an equally engaging atmosphere outside of the ballpark," Schiller said. "To accomplish that, we needed partnerships with experienced, industry leaders who could bring that same level of expertise to the project, especially the retail, residential, office and restaurants."

Thus, the Braves entered the marketplace in search of help and landed on a variety of organizations with experience in developing the different entities located within the mixed-use community. It starts on the ground with master land planner The Jerde Partnership, Inc., who put together the site map where everything would be placed.

From there, retail developer Fuqua Development, office developer Pope & Land Enterprises and residential developer Pollack Shores Real Estate Group were brought on to assist in the creation of the community with input in each company's respective areas of expertise.

"There's no way that our organization could embark on this alone," said Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of business operations. "It's too massive, and it requires a great deal of skill, and I think we're all smart enough to know how to be good quarterbacks and conductors and orchestra leaders, and we just need to make sure all the instruments are being played well and the team is playing together, and fortunately, that's all happening."

In addition to the development team, the Braves have partnered with JLL (formerly Jones Lang LaSalle) to serve as the project manager. JLL's partnership with the Braves is to manage the architects, engineers and construction companies on both the ballpark and mixed-use development sides of the project.

"We made a conscientious decision out of the gate to select JLL as our management entity," Plant said. "We could have gone out and obtained expertise from companies that provide oversight of ballpark construction versus development construction, sales and engineering, and then we'd have a whole bunch of different companies that wouldn't have a consolidated effort without us driving that consolidation. So, we made a decision to find a company like JLL."

The club certainly recognized the vastness of Braves Country, a fan base that stretches to the far reaches of the nation and internationally. SunTrust Park and the accompanying mixed-use development will serve as a destination not just for fans in Atlanta, but for those across the Southeast and United States.

Restaurants and shops along a spacious boulevard will allow visitors and residents to satisfy their inner foodie, shop for the latest fashions and take advantage of unique retail offerings all year long. Roads inside the community will be open most days, but on game days streets will be partially closed to provide a more walkable environment for fans heading to the ballpark.

"Many of the tenants that we have been looking for, especially on the retail and restaurant side, would be destination type of retailers and restaurants," Schiller said of the companies who will occupy space in the development. "Some of which may be new to the area and not have any locations in Atlanta, and some of which are here and very popular and would bring an added dimension to the development."

The final list of tenants is still to be determined, but the Braves have opened up the sales process to start creating a finite list. Options for potential tenants aren't being generated solely from the Braves executive team and retail developer, but the team is also seeking information through research.

"This wasn't just our executive team saying, 'We want X,Y and Z store or restaurant there,'" Plant said. "But a lot of what's going to go there has been driven by some really solid market research and data that tells us what the market trends are and analytics that tell us what's missing in that area that matches up with our vision and our desires."

While the official design is currently being finalized, a few highlights are beginning to find their place. Overlooking the plaza area will be an office tower and a 200 to 300-room hotel that will allow out-of-town fans and area visitors to stay close to the ballpark. A particular selling point for the offices and the hotel will be sight lines directly into SunTrust Park, an added perk as the initial master plan has continued to develop.

Anchored on the other end of the plaza will be an entertainment venue, which will enhance the entertainment options on both game and non-game days with capabilities for concerts or special events.

Rounding out the development will be residential space that will occupy the areas above the retailers and restaurants.

In all, 700,000 to 1 million square feet of space will be utilized throughout the development, delivering the best experience to Braves fans and visitors to the complex.

"We continue to receive a tremendous amount of enthusiastic support from a vast majority of our fans and the constituents in Cobb County that are going to be a big part of this," Plant said. "They appreciate and they recognize the huge benefit to that entire community for generations to come and certainly the efforts of our plan and our vision for what we're going to do over there."

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