Thursday, November 14, 2013

Atlanta Braves Go For Record ERA: Extreme Relocation Absurdity

Poor Atlanta.  So many assets, so many problems.  So many opportunities, so many lost opportunities (previous thoughts here).  And now a new self-inflicted wound.
The Atlanta Braves are moving.  Are they moving to a new urban neighborhood, accessible by transit, poised to serve as the springboard for exciting urban mixed-use development?  Stimulating new restaurants, bars, and shops in a walkable setting?  Luring Millennials and Baby Boomers to revitalized housing?  Following the success stories of St. Louis (my comments here), San Diego, Baltimore, San Francisco, and others?
Not so much.  In fact, not at all.  The Braves are moving from the city of Atlanta to a suburban, sprawltown, 100 percent auto-oriented location at the junction of two Interstates.
Now I can see why the Braves were unhappy with their current location, Turner Field.  Although some news stories refer to it as a “downtown” location, that’s a bit of a stretch.  It’s an urban location, but not really downtown, and not really near anything.  Certainly nowhere near MARTA (is it a rule in Atlanta that major new activity centers must be located away from MARTA stations?).  The experience of leaving a ballgame at Turner Field is certainly no fun.  Instead of walking out to well-lit streets with cheerful crowds heading for bars and restaurants, you walk down empty streets and under dark freeway underpasses to find your car and get out of the neighborhood.  And now, bad planning is replaced by worse planning.
For those of us who spend our time immersed in sustainability and resiliency issues, Atlanta seems like a throwback.  Are there still people who believe that edge cities and bigger freeways and suburban sprawl are the wave of the future?  Apparently.

The good news is that many cities understand that well-planned urban ballparks create economic value and promote a better quality of life, not only for city dwellers but for the entire region.  This chart from Deadspin shows clearly how most cities have been moving ballparks in toward the region’s center, not outward.

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