As momentum builds for the Atlanta Braves to relocate from Turner Field to a new ballpark and mixed use development in nearby Cobb County, the Atlanta Journal Constitution published a somewhat scary story on a somewhat similar project in Cincinnati: the development of Great American Ballpark, Paul Brown Stadium, and a mixed-use development called The Banks that has continued to suck public money, ten years after the ballpark opened. Read their story here:
One can hardly fault the AJC for their concern. The Banks is a tale of middling success propped up by substantial public investment. But it’s not the only story out there. Here are two stories the AJC didn’t bother to report:
In the area around Minute Maid Park, which opened in Houston in 2000, development has been healthy and steady, despite the economic downturn of the past five years. The ballpark has seen the development of not just bars and restaurants, but housing, hotels and office buildings in the underdeveloped areas around Minute Maid Park, with minimal public investment. Houston’s secret: a lassiez-faire, hands-off approach to managing the development of the ballpark district. Growth has occurred organically in accordance with market demand. The result: no big drain on the city budget.
Another city that took a slightly more hands-on approach is Pittsburgh, which, much like Cincinnati, replaced an undistinguished concrete donut (Three Rivers Stadium) with a pair of new, purpose-built football and baseball stadiums that are both more popular than the donut ever was. Also like Cincy, Pittsburgh envisioned a mixed-use development between the stadiums, which has largely come to pass. Economic development incentives have been used to help some of the projects on the North Shore, but overall public investment (except for the stadiums) has been modest, and the buildings built have responded to market demand more than planner prescription.
From a distance, it appears that Cincinatti would have been better off leaving The Banks to the market to develop on its own timeline. It also appears that journalists in Atlanta looked to the worst example of adjacent development to hang their cautionary tale on.