Reed: 'Braves aren't the only ones talking to other people'

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ATLANTA —

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he's not worried he could be remembered as the mayor who let the Atlanta Braves get away.

Channel 2's Dave Huddleston asked the mayor that question during a news conference Tuesday.

Reed said he negotiated the best he could without sticking taxpayers with the majority of the costs to improve Turner Field.

He said he loves the team but will hate to see them go and his legacy will be just fine.

Reed said if the Braves leave, he has plans to tear down the Ted and build middle class homes.

"There's a lot I can't discuss, but the Braves aren't the only ones talking to other people," Reed told reporters.

Reed said for 18 months he negotiated with the Braves, agreeing to improve Turner Field with $19 million for a better sewer system, bring light rail to the field to improve access and allow the Braves to do vending around the stadium.

But he said he was not going to have taxpayers get hit with a $300 million bill for more improvements.

"I think my legacy will be the person that's balanced more budgets, reduced crime by 17 percent, got re-elected by 84 percent. I think my legacy is going to be OK," Reed said.

The Braves will continue to play at Turner Field for three more years. If they move, their new stadium will only be 12 miles up the road.

Will the Braves leaving Turner Field be a good or bad thing for the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium? Turns out, it depends on whom you ask.

"I think it presents a very unique opportunity," said Columbia Residential CEO Noel Khalil.

Khalil estimates he's built about $100 million worth of large residential developments within just a few miles of Turner Field.

He thinks the Braves have been an impediment to redevelopment because of the need for all those parking lots surrounding the stadium. Khalil believes developers will line up to build on that land if the Braves leave town.

"It's incredibly well-located," said Khalil. "The city's political leadership has invested in the infrastructure and has allowed us to take advantage of expanding into a very convenient and attractive community."

Khalil believes accessibility to downtown and to the interstate system make it very attractive to developers like him.

But some residents believe development without the Braves would take too long and could destroy their neighborhoods once and for all.

"A plan like that would take five to 10 years," said Neighborhood Planning Unit-V president Micah Rowland. "We won't survive that long. People right now are hanging on by a thread."

Rowland lives and owns properties in the Mechanicsville neighborhood just across the interstate from Turner Field. He said his area is just beginning to rebound from the recession, so he's afraid if the Braves leave, it'll just collapse the local housing market all over again.

"We'll be devastated," said Rowland. "Many people in the neighborhood will see their property taxes fall in my opinion. We'll have difficulties bringing in businesses to do work because most of the businesses who are here now, small businesses, are sustained by the traffic that the Braves bring in every year."

Atlanta City Council Members Carla Smith and Michael Julian Bond represent the area around Turner Field. Smith announced the formation of a task force to discuss options for the neighborhoods affected by the Braves leaving. She also said they want to revisit and update existing redevelopment plans for the area.

Bond was born in 1966, the year the Braves moved to Atlanta. He said he grew up watching them play.

"They're a part of the city's identity," said Bond. "If you take that away then it's almost like mourning the death of a loved one. They'll be gone and the community will suffer.