By David Pendered
A committee of the Atlanta City Council tapped the brakes Tuesday on what had been a fast-moving proposal to allow Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to be rerouted in a way that’s said to provide for VIP parking at the new Falcons stadium.
Instead of fast-tracking the proposal, Utilities Committee Chairperson Natalyn Mosby Archibong won support for her suggestion that the committee convene a work session on topics involving the MLK Drive corridor. The impact of such a delay on the stadium project is unclear, but some reports suggest the stadium design is not so far along that it couldn’t be changed if MLK Drive is to be left intact.
Hans Utz, Mayor Kasim Reed’s deputy COO, told the committee that concerns about the proposal are premature until after Atlanta has agreed to abandon land to facilitate the stadium. Meanwhile, the city’s control over six parcels of land is said to be the last bit of leverage Atlanta has over the stadium project.
The council in December cleared the way for the Falcons to draw on up to $200 million in city financing for the new stadium, and the council voted to abandon land needed to build the actual stadium structure.
The current proposal before the Utilities Committee calls for Atlanta to abandon six parcels of land. The request was filed by the Georgia World Congress Center. Incidentally, the center’s authority voted Tuesday to authorize the transaction agreement with the Falcons for construction of the stadium, according to ajc.com.
Some who’ve heard the proposed abandonment described at community meetings have said they were told the city’s land is needed in order to provide a VIP parking lot. An email sent Tuesday from a stadium advocate said this information is inaccurate.
Utz told the Utilities Committee:
- “I want to emphasize the prematurity of these plans and how early the phase is for us to be drawing concrete conclusions about what’s going to be in place before these abandonments have occurred, before we have actually finalized the designs.
- “It’s very difficult to make the assertions we are seeing in some of these emails, so we’re going to be aggressively pushing back against that. We will make sure the council has the full information we have as these plans mature. We’re going to make sure the community has full impact as we move forward.
- “We agree – this is a one shot deal.”
Utz’s made his comments shortly after Archibong had described her desire for additional conversation around the issue of abandoning city-owned land in the MLK corridor and the broader question of the role that MLK Drive could play in rejuvenating a troubled segment of downtown Atlanta.
“We need to have sort of a big picture of all this,” Archibong said. “I don’t know if it needs to be some work session, or something where we can get our mind around what this is, because connectivity is so important.
“If we do this in isolation, we may be missing a big picture component, or dynamic,” Archibong said.
At least one of the emails Utz cited was sent by Michael Dobbins, a professor of practice at Georgia Tech. Dobbins has overseen student research on the stadium neighborhoods that was incorporated into the economic development plan for the neighborhoods that was drafted by a consultant retained by Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm.
Dobbins contends that the rerouting of MLK Drive would harm stadium neighborhoods. Traffic plans drawn by Tech students actually call for more streets and paths to be created between downtown and the stadium neighborhoods of Vine City, English Avenue, and Castleberry Hill. Such connections would improve the quality of life on both sides of the massive convention and entertainment complex, the students’ reports show.