Tim Lee, chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, said those finalists are Cumberland-based Pope & Land and a team composed of Cincinnati-based North American Properties, Houston-based Hines Interests and Los Angeles-based AEG.
The Braves plan to build a mix of retail shops, restaurants and residential units on 45 acres in a corridor leading to the stadium.
“They’re interviewing them as finalists to get the project, but that’s as far as it’s gone right now as of today,” Lee said Tuesday.
The Braves have already settled on Kansas City, Mo.-based Populous as the firm that will design its proposed $672 million stadium, although it still needs to find a builder for that project.
Populous is a global architectural firm that has designed such stadiums as Marlins Park in Miami in 2012 and Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.
Lee said final negotiations with Populous are being drawn out while the Braves find a land planner in the coming weeks that will determine where to place the stadium and adjoining development on the 57-acre parcel it bought in January from Bethesda, Md.-based B.F. Saul Co. for about $34 million.
“They’re in the final negotiation with some of the key players and execution of the development, specifically the land planner and the development of the mixed-use piece of the project, and the anticipation is they’re going to continue to move forward and hopefully break ground sometime this fall, depending on finalizing these decisions in the next couple of weeks,” Lee said.
The land planner will determine whether the residential component will be rental, townhomes, condos or a mix.
“Is it a tower? How many floors of retail can you do, or do you do retail and three floors of office and six floors of residential? All that’s being analyzed right now,” Lee said. “I’ve had several people come up to me to say they can’t wait to get the chance to buy into it before they even get built.”
AEG, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Co., owns or is affiliated with a collection of companies including the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sprint Center in Kansas City and the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Hines is a real estate firm that controls assets valued at about $25.2 billion. Among its developments is the EDF Tower in Paris.
North American Properties is a real estate company that has acquired, developed and managed more than $4 billion of retail, multifamily, mixed-use and office properties in the U.S.
Lee said he’s not familiar with those firms, but he is a fan of Pope & Land Enterprises, which specializes in developing mixed-use properties in the Southeast. Its properties include Atlantic Center Plaza in Midtown and Cumberland Center by the Cumberland Boulevard/I-75 Interchange.
Pope & Land senior vice president Mason Zimmerman sits on the board of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, which voted in November to commit $10 million toward transportation improvements for the Braves stadium. The CID also adopted a resolution endorsing the creation of a new tax district, which would roughly follow the CID’s existing boundaries.
The new tax district, which the Board of Commissioners is expected to approve later this month, would levy a tax on the area that would bring in $5.1 million annually. That $5.1 million would be used to help pay the debt service on the revenue bonds that are being issued by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority to finance the stadium over 30 years.
The Board of Commissioners has committed to paying $300 million of the $672 million cost to build the stadium. It has also committed to paying up to $35 million in capital maintenance costs over the 30-year life of the stadium pact.
Kerry Armstrong, another senior vice president at Pope and Land, is chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission and chairman of the North Fulton CID. Zimmerman is also chairman of the Town Center Area CID.
“Pope & Land is a really good firm,” Lee said. “I know from Mason’s experience and the other principals in that company that it’s an organization that is strong and is capable of doing it. I don’t know the other firms but I know the Braves, this isn’t their first rodeo, and they’re looking for partners that can execute the timeline and the complexity of the project.”
No conflict, Lee says
The AJC published an article on Tuesday suggesting Zimmerman had a conflict of interest in his role as a CID board member and finalist for the Braves development.
Lee doesn’t see any conflicts.
“I don’t see the conflict because the CID’s vote was several months ago, long before there was absolutely no indication whatsoever as to how the project was going to be developed,” Lee said.
Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area, said it was not his place to weigh in on the Zimmerman allegation since the mixed-use proposal is privately owned.
“Right now you’re talking about a private company, Liberty Media, who owns X amount of acres, discussing with another private company about potentially developing it for them and there is no county involvement in that part of it at all,” Ott said.
Zimmerman did not return requests for comment by press time.