Falcons stadium: MLK Drive bridge severed, court hearing set for Feb. 17 on $278 million in city funding

By David Pendered

Progress on the new Falcons stadium has hit a new high gear.

A segment of Martin Luther King Drive has been demolished. This area is east of Northside Drive. Credit: David Pendered

A segment of Martin Luther King Drive has been demolished as part of the Falcons stadium construction project. This area is east of Northside Drive. Credit: David Pendered

A demolition crew worked Wednesday to rip out a portion of the viaduct of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. A Fulton County Superior Court judge on Tuesday set a hearing date of Feb. 17 to validate the $278.3 million the city has agreed to borrow in order provide for the stadium’s construction.

The fate of the stadium plan is far from certain: Area residents have indicated they intend to block the bond sale in court; the Atlanta City Council hasn’t agreed to abandon six parcels of land the Falcons say they need to build the stadium.

To clarify the amount of the planned bond sale:

Atlanta intends to issue up to $200 million in construction financing. It is to be repaid through the hotel/motel tax. The remaining $78 million in bonds is to pay interest, costs and fees, according to the legal paperwork.

Demolition work

The demolition work removed a piece of MLK Drive from a span of the viaduct that transports MLK Drive above the railroad gulch. The viaduct spans from near Northside Drive almost all the way to Spring Street.

Critics of the Falcons stadium plan think it should do more to help area residents and the neighborhoods. This young man peddles his bicycle in Vine City. Credit: Donita Pendered

Critics of the Falcons stadium plan think it should do more to help area residents and the neighborhoods. This young man peddles his bicycle in Vine City, a few blocks from the future Falcons stadium. Credit: Donita Pendered

The piece of road removed was perhaps 100 feet long, and it formerly covered the entire width of the viaduct. Pieces of concrete that were still attached to rebar dangled high above the ground.

A fence had been installed on the west end of the viaduct and a portable traffic sign directed traffic to follow Mitchell Street toward the state Capitol. Other signs on Northside Drive, southbound, directed drivers to continue south to reach a detour to MLK Drive.

About 20 demolition workers were busy late Wednesday on earth movers; putting finishing touches on the fencing; and directing traffic to continue on eastbound Mitchell Street.

Just two weeks ago, traffic was moving normally on MLK Drive, but a portable traffic signed cautioned drivers that the road would be closed in February.

Bond may be opposed

The bond validation document was filed Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court. Judge Ural Glanville signed an order setting the validation hearing for Feb. 17 at 8:30 a.m.

To accommodate the future Falcons stadium, Martin Luther King Drive is barricaded and vehicles are instructed to ver right onto Mitchell Street. This view is from near Northside Drive looking toward downtown Atlanta. Credit: David Pendered

To accommodate the future Falcons stadium, Martin Luther King Drive is barricaded and vehicles are instructed to veer right onto Mitchell Street. This view is from near Northside Drive looking toward downtown Atlanta. Credit: David Pendered

The paperwork is straight-forward: The state of Georgia has filed against three entities to ensure that all legal issues have been handled. The defendants are the Atlanta Development Authority (doing business as Invest Atlanta), the city of Atlanta, and the Geo. L. Smith II Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard filed the case. The defendant’s lawyer is Douglas Selby, of Hunton & Williams.

Under normal circumstances, a bond validation hearing attracts little attention, and no opposition.

This is not a normal circumstance.

Several leaders in the Vine City and English Avenue communities contend the negotiations with the Falcons have not fulfilled the promise: That a world-class sports arena would serve as the catalyst to improve blighted neighborhoods.

City asked to abandon land

The Georgia World Congress Center has asked the city to abandon six parcels in the MLK Drive corridor. The land is needed for stadium construction.

This is the viaduct that was severed as part of the Falcons stadium construction project. This picture, taken Jan. 25, shows the intact structure. The segment removed is about a third of the distance across the railroad gulch. Credit: David Pendered

This is the viaduct that was severed as part of the Falcons stadium construction project. This picture, taken Jan. 25, shows the intact structure. The segment removed is about a third of the distance across the railroad gulch. Credit: David Pendered

Some plans indicate the six parcels are needed to provide VIP parking for fans. These plans show that MLK Drive is to be severed and rerouted via Northside Drive and Mitchell Street around the site of the future stadium. This is the traffic flow that has resulted from the severing of the MLK Drive viaduct.

However, Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay contends VIP parking is not the driving consideration.

Rather, the parking shown on these maps is, “a by-product of other key consideration (sic) in siting the stadium on the property,” according to a letter McKay sent to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the presidents of the four Atlanta University college presidents.

The legislation was on the fast track until Utilities Committee Chairperson Natalyn Mosby Archibong, of the Atlanta City Council, prevailed Jan. 28 in her request for the committee to convene a work session. The purpose is to review these abandonments in the broader context of the city’s desire to promote the renewal of the MLK Drive corridor.

A date for a work session the committee agreed to convene had not been determined as of Wednesday morning.

The legislation to abandon the land was submitted in January by councilmembers C.T. Martin and Michael Julian Bond. The method they used would have enabled the council to vote on the papers at its Monday meeting. However, the committee’s decision to convene a work session has deferred action.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

5 replies
  1. Equitable says:

    Save MLK and restore Magnolia! If we love this city we must stand for good urban design, which means (re)connected streets. The proposed stadium layout is horrible urban design which worsens the separation between the west side and the opportunities of downtown. 20 days per year of events at the dome versus 365 days per year of people who live here. They’ve got their dome, leave us the streets!Report

    Reply
  2. InAtl says:

    Will there be a replacement connection from Northside Drive to Spring Street?    Otherwise I agree with Equitable, this is very bad urban planning and not good for the surrounding neighborhoods. 
    Also replacing 3 properties with surface parking is not a good move. 
    What will be the walking route from the 5 points station to the new stadium?   Going to Marietta street is a bit of a detour.  Hopefully some kind of direct route is provided, since for those going north or south 5 points could represent a better station to use than waiting at the Arena Station and transferring at 5 points.Report

    Reply
  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    The train wreck has already happened and we are just now beginning to hear the noise. Look for the remaining unpopular news to be released in small bits so as to provide minimum discomfort to politicians.Report

    Reply

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