LaShawn HoffmanThe Atlanta Braves’ move to Cobb County creates an opportunity for Atlanta officials to adopt a comprehensive community development strategy that is creative, collaborative and inclusive of the five surrounding communities of Turner Field, known for the past 15 years as the Stadium Neighborhoods.

While the communities of Adair Park, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown and Summer-hill have had modest neighborhood improvements, they have lacked a holistic, collaborative approach to economic development, housing and business infrastructure that would allow prosperity.

The Pittsburgh community, one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods founded in 1883 and bearing a rich history, has been faced with many challenges in recent decades. Yet despite these challenges, residents have tried to beat back decline. Crime, vacant structures, mortgage fraud and overgrown lots led us to organize and actively create a neighborhood-driven, comprehensive revitalization plan — an in-depth land-use plan intended to foster business growth and wealth creation for residents.

We have developed the blueprint. What we lack is the spark.

The transformation of Turner Field should be a leverage point to catalyze development, not only within the stadium’s footprint, but also along the once-bustling arteries around it, like McDaniel and Pryor streets, University Avenue, Hank Aaron Drive and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard. By focusing on comprehensive revitalization, we can re-create commercial corridors that spur business development and job creation.

If this does not happen, however, the converted stadium will very likely become to the surrounding communities what the original stadium became — an island of renewal in a sea of decay.

The Strategic Community Investment report released by the city of Atlanta states that “improving the quality of life for all Atlanta citizens is a priority.” In the same report, the Pittsburgh community is noted as having “blight,” with 14.8 percent of its housing and lots in “poor or deteriorated condition” and a vacant structure rate of 31.5 percent.

Three of the four communities surrounding Turner Field are considered “vulnerable” as it relates to housing by city standards. These statistics are bleak. While Pittsburgh in particular has cultivated an engaged civic infrastructure, a neighborhood-based community development corporation and committed philanthropic partnerships, it is unlikely real economic development will happen in the near term without intentional, mission-aligned, public/private partnerships capable of driving investment back to these communities.

It is understood the redevelopment of Turner Field will not solve all the issues of Pittsburgh. By weaving in the intensive planning that has already occurred and embracing a broader vision for the future of this historic landmark, the city will be better poised to achieve its goal of an improved quality of life for all residents, especially those working families who live in the shadows of our great city.

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