Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Talks About Goals, Fatherhood, and Turner Field’s Future

Photograph by Fernando Decillis
Photograph by Fernando Decillis

After he was photographed for our October cover, Mayor Kasim Reed chatted with Atlanta magazine editor-in-chief Steve Fennessy for a discussion about his second-term goals, the future of Turner Field, how fatherhood changed him from a “selfish” man, and what’s next.

What’s surprised you about the job?
Balancing speed with the appropriate level of deliberation is probably one of the most unexpected parts of the job. You’re trying to make decisions that are both quick and right. My experience is if you don’t have a really strong will, then in government, things tend to float and slide. Because you have a finite amount of time and the people have given you a mandate to execute, there’s a balance. That tension is probably one of the most challenging parts of the job. I came out of the legislature, from a process where collaboration was a big part of being successful. Then I became an executive, as mayor. It’s one of the things that comes up frequently in the press and is misunderstood. People confuse what it takes to achieve significant goals from a timing perspective with a lack of openness and desire to collaborate.

With two-and-a-half years left in your final term, is your sense of urgency greater now?
No, but I want to keep schedule. One of my mentors is Dick Parsons, who ran Time Warner. He always used to emphasize that you’ve got to keep schedule. You execute and execute and execute and when you leave you’ve got a body of work you can talk about in detail.

It’s hard to imagine you leaving office without the Turner Field question resolved.
It’ll be resolved. I think it’s going to be one of the four or five most important developments in the life of the region. You’ll see an investment of between $250 million and $750 million. You’ll see a level of transformation and activity—that was promised with the Centennial Olympic Games—come to pass. The balance we’re going to have to maintain is to make sure the folks who have been part of that community from the very beginning, remain. Because the amount of capital that’s going to flow into that corridor is going to surprise folks. If you look at the renderings for Underground Atlanta, we’ve said a quarter-billion dollars, but I think it’s going to be significantly more than that. We’ve got somewhere between $6 billion and $10 billion in projects that are going to break ground over the next two-and-a-half years. And Turner Field is going to be as close to what we talked about twenty years ago as it’s ever been. I also think it’s going to change Georgia State University forever—if we end up going in that direction, if that’s where the Atlanta Fulton Recreational Authority goes, and if that’s where the community goes. Georgia State has never had a main campus. They’ve never had 77 acres to build around. Georgia State is a sleeping giant. It’s the largest public university in the state of Georgia. This campus, if we go in that direction, is going to give it that feeling. As big and dynamic as Georgia State is now, you don’t feel it, not the way you feel at Georgia Tech or at Emory. For me that will be quite a legacy: To have the kids at Summerhill look onto a college campus instead of a bunch of vacant car lots.

Or instead of a casino?
Instead of a casino. But I will tell you the amount of gaming activity going on—folks looking for parcels of land—is very high right now. I’m the vice chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission. I supported the study that’s being funded by the ARC [to study potential uses for the Turner Field property]. I’m excited about it. And I think we’re going to do something real special. More importantly than what I’m saying is, I think people should look at my track record in this space. Buckhead Atlanta was two holes. Dene Oliver [CEO of OliverMcMillan, the developer of Buckhead Atlanta] and I probably talked every other day. They’re getting ready to invest another $500 million in Buckhead Atlanta. There’s nobody in that deal who’d say it would have happened without us, and without that partnership. Ponce City Market—people said I was crazy, I sold Ponce City Market for $15 million to Jamestown. But I had a million dollars in carrying costs [when the building was city-owned], and a massive eyesore. Ponce City Market is now not only receiving regional attention, it’s receiving national attention. If you talk to Detlev von Platen at Porsche Cars North America, he’ll tell you, “There’s no way I’m near the airport without the relationship with the mayor.” So at some point, track record counts. The work that Tyler Perry is getting ready to do is going to be amazing.

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Source: Atlanta Magazine | Steve Fennessy

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