Monday, December 29, 2008

Sembler thinking outside the big box

Sembler, the developer everyone loves to hate, wants to build a new stadium for the Falcons as part of their bid for the Doraville GM plant.  The Falcons have talked with Sembler about the idea, but all the public statements are pretty lukewarm:
Falcons President Rich McKay said, “Sembler and a number of developers contacted us many months back when GM put the site up for sale. I guess one of the concepts being floated by Sembler was a stadium development. We have had preliminary discussions with them.”...

“The site in Doraville is a special location,” McKay said. “So we felt like it was something that we had to at least look at and see what’s being proposed. But right now it’s pretty preliminary.”
McKay obviously recognizes the investment the City of Atlanta has in keeping the Falcons downtown.  Part of having the Falcons at the Georgia Dome is the other events the go on there - the Peach Bowl, the SEC Championship, SEC tournament, Final Fours, state football championships, etc.  A new state-of-the-art stadium in Doraville would likely try and get all those events, too, and downtown would be missing a huge piece of convention-type business for hotels and businesses.  Expect serious political opposition to this idea.

From a development perspective, this feels to me like Sembler is scrambling to find something that works for this Doraville site.  All the other development groups have dropped out because now is a crappy time to be building anything, and you can't get anything financed anyway.  Sembler is trying to think outside the box a bit, I guess to just keep things going.  Sember certainly likes to dream big, but quite a few of their proposals have been politically tone deaf.


  1. If the Doraville site must be developed by Sembler, then I am in favor of the stadium idea, if for no other reason than to reduce the acreage Sembler has to build their glorified-stripmall garbage.

    Seriously, as a downtown advocate I actually have no problem with the Falcons leaving. Baseball stadiums and basketball/hockey arenas often work quite well in an urban setting, but there are few examples of NFL stadiums being truly well-integrated into a high-density walkable urban environment. Part of it may be the whole tailgating tradition, which is inherently car-oriented and perhaps reinforces the demand for large surface parking lots nearby.

    Come to think of it, if a sea of surface parking is a necessary accessory for an NFL stadium (as is usually the case), then what better place to put it than a Sembler development?

  2. Here's a wacky idea (no doubt generated by the loooong drive back from Ohio today):

    Let's put the new stadium (which no one seems to be in a hurry to want) at the old Ford plant in Hapeville.

    Yes, I live in Hapeville. No, I'm not sure if I'm serious. But hey, it's close (probably too close) to the airport, it's right off I-75, and there's LOTS of space.

    Yeah, you're right. It's probably the drive.



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