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AEG, Hines and North American pull out of Braves project | News

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AEG, Hines and North American pull out of Braves project

ATLANTA -- A powerhouse team that included Los-Angeles-based sports and entertainment company AEG has pulled out of consideration to develop the mixed-use project surrounding the Atlanta Braves new Cobb County ballpark.

The move was confirmed by sources familiar with the project.

The AEG development group also included Houston-based Hines Interests and Cincinnati-based North American Properties. Hines' Atlanta executives could not be reached. North American Properties declined comment.

The decision leaves one development team standing in the competition to develop the $400 million mixed-use project — Atlanta developers Fuqua Development LLC, Pope & Land Enterprises Inc., Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, and Batson Cook Development Co. The Atlanta Braves have tapped world-renowned architect The Jerde Partnership Inc. to design the project.

In a statement, the Braves said, "As we continue to make progress, we are even more optimistic and confident to bring both a world-class ballpark and a vibrant mixed-use development to Braves fans and the community. We have been dedicated to finding the best partners for the long term success of this project. ... We are committed to our detailed process as we evaluate potential developers for the mixed-use portion of this project and are excited about the progress we have made thus far."

The Braves would like to make the decision, ideally in the next 30 days, about who will develop the mixed-use project and entertainment district, people familiar with the process have said.

AEG, known for some of the world's most popular arenas and entertainment venues including L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles and The O2 in London, was thought to be a difference maker for its development team. Hines Interests and North American Properties also have deep connections in Atlanta real estate, and both companies have well-known local projects in their portfolios. Hines has developed towers such as Midtown's 41-story 1180 Peachtree and the Ravinia project on the Atlanta Perimeter. North American Properties is operating partner on Midtown's Atlantic Station and the developer of Avalon, one of the largest new mixed-use projects in the Southeast.

Last fall, the Braves surprised the city and much of Major League Baseball when the team decided to relocate its stadium from downtown to the suburbs. The Braves have been playing at Turner Field since 1997. The team wants to open the new Cobb stadium and mixed-use project by the first pitch of the 2017 season.

Why the AEG, Hines, and North American Properties group dropped out isn't clear. Earlier this year, OliverMcMillan also pulled out of consideration. The San Diego based developer had been a finalist but said it planned instead to focus on urban mixed-use developments.

The mixed-use project is a critical piece of the new Braves stadium. It's also complicated for whatever developer wins the job. It will likely require a three-to-five year commitment from some of its most talented executives. That's potentially difficult, because the overall development cycle has started to crank up again, especially across the Southeast. Developers have been forced to weigh the financial upside of the Braves project and the potential strain of finishing such a complicated undertaking by 2017 — now less than three years away.



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