NYT’s take on the Braves’ move to new stadium in Cobb County


A typically interesting piece from Kim Severson at the New York Times: With Braves Set to Move, a Broader Look at Atlanta.

From the article:

As demographics changed and development migrated to the largely white suburbs, the team remained a proud anchor of an increasingly black city.

But now, as the team makes plans to head a dozen miles northwest to a new $672 million baseball stadium in Cobb County, a regional civic conversation has begun: Is the move a blow to a city beginning to enjoy a post-recession urban renaissance, or is it a signal of a new era in which traditional assumptions about the divide between city and suburb no long apply?

Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta, who recently brokered a deal to build a $1.2 billion downtown stadium for the Atlanta Falcons, spent the week taking hits for letting the Braves go.

His critics, he said, are shortsighted.

“We’ve got to make a decision — either we’re going to be a region or we’re not,” he said at a packed news briefing the day after the Braves’ announcement.

Severson also notes the increasing diversity both in Atlanta and in Cobb County:

Places like Gwinnett and Cobb Counties north of Atlanta have become much more racially diverse in the last decade. The number of black residents in Cobb County grew by 47 percent from 2000 to 2010.

On the other hand, Atlanta, long a majority black city, is becoming whiter. During the last decade, the white population has grown by 17 percent, although black residents still make up just over half the population.

These are demographic trends that we’ve been seeing in other areas, including here in Savannah, where almost every neighborhood is more diverse today than in previous decades. More blacks and Latinos have been moving into predominantly white areas, and more whites have been moving into predominantly black neighborhoods.

Putting forward a reason for optimism about the move, Severson cites Chris Leinberger, a professor at the George Washington University School of Business:

The area around the stadium could be a distinct walkable urban place, Mr. Leinberger said, describing a kind of guided development designed to deliver the feel of urban living in a smaller community.

I still have my doubts, however, about some of the socioeconomic and racial issues involved in the Braves’ move to the suburbs. From what I know of the site and of the Braves’ plans for an entertainment district, I’d say the odds are even at best for the area to become what is envisioned by Leinberger.

It’s certainly going to be interesting to see it all play out.