Just a little over one mile past the Chattahoochee River, which serves as Buckhead’s Northwest border, sits a billion-dollar development that will soon add a plethora of dining and entertainment options for Buckhead’s residents. Since SunTrust Park was announced as the Atlanta Braves’ new home in 2013, it has been highly anticipated.
Located just outside of the Perimeter at the intersection of Highways 75 and 285 in Cobb County, SunTrust Park is the first facility of its kind: a baseball stadium meets bustling community, where a Braves game will be just one of several attractions that draw visitors in come spring 2017, when doors officially open. In addition to the ballpark, the nearly $1 billion development includes The Battery Atlanta, a sprawling—between 700,000 to 1 million square feet of space—mixed-use community featuring retail, residential, and office spaces, as well as dining options from some of Atlanta’s most-acclaimed chefs, including Ford Fry (bringing Superica!) and Linton Hopkins. As Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing has said, “We’re building an experience that extends well beyond the confines of the ballpark.”
A Brave(s) New World
That’s one of the factors that motivated restaurateur Linton Hopkins, a James Beard award-winning chef who owns Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch, and Linton’s in the Garden, to open a steakhouse concept at the new stadium. A longtime and ardent Braves fan, Hopkins was inspired by the opportunity to be not just part of a sports complex—but a neighborhood. “This isn’t just your everyday ballpark with an office building,” he says. “I applaud the Braves for recognizing what the future of sport will be and developing a real sense of community around the stadium. For us as a business, it also means that we’re staying busy 365 days a year, as opposed to just the season. And that makes us look good.”
It’s not just Cobb County that’s likely to see economic growth as a result of SunTrust Park. Sitting mere miles away, the development is expected to be an asset to Buckhead as well. “You’ll certainly see some positive economic effect on Buckhead with the Braves moving closer to our side of the city,” says Sam Massell, former Atlanta Mayor and President of the Buckhead Coalition. “It means more people will be traveling through Buckhead to go to and from the games and that’ll have a favorable impact on retailers and restaurants here.” Hopkins, who owns two restaurants in Buckhead, says he’s optimistic that game attendance at the new stadium will likely bring more foot traffic to his Buckhead spots, too. “I think there’ll be a trickle effect, without a doubt,” he says.
Bob Voyles, CEO and principal at commercial real estate firm Seven Oaks Company, says he sees the Chattahoochee River as “an invisible border” between Buckhead and the ballpark, and predicts the development will have a “tremendous” impact on Buckhead. Voyles notes the Cumberland market has already picked up, and five new commercial construction projects are slated to bring new shopping options for both Cobb County and Buckhead residents. “Folks who’ve traditionally gone to Lenox or stayed in the Peachtree corridor will soon have closer options in both retail and dining,” he says. He’s also excited by the entertainment options for business executives: Seven Oaks has purchased Braves season tickets for clients and Voyles says that The Battery will offer increased client entertainment options, as well.
Trickle effects can be felt elsewhere as well. Comcast is building a nine-story building that will serve as its new divisional headquarters in The Battery, a move that’s expected to bring new jobs to the area. And then there’s the much buzzed-about real estate factor. Ben Hirsh, Buckhead real estate broker and entrepreneur, says that while home values in the neighborhood aren’t expected to grow in direct correlation to the stadium, demand in the market as a whole will see an incremental uptick—particularly demand for housing within a two-mile radius of SunTrust Park. That demand will be bolstered by the growing trend of people leaving the suburbs to live inside the Perimeter: “People have for years been moving from East Cobb and Marietta into Buckhead because they’ve had it with the traffic,” Hirsh says. “Increased traffic on the highways as a result of the stadium will definitely encourage more people to teeter and ask, ‘Should I move in town?’ I think there’s going to a segment in the population who—when they hit their first game day traffic on the way home—might call me and ask to buy a house in Buckhead.”
The first Braves game at Suntrust Park is slated for April 13. What do you think the impacts on Buckhead will be?