Little things could improve life for neighbors of Falcons stadium

By David Pendered

No public urination. No open containers of alcoholic beverage. No loud noises. No open grilling and no tailgating.

The same streets in Castleberry Hill that attract Falcons fans for tailgate parties are promoted by the state's film industry. Credit: georgia.org

The same streets in Castleberry Hill that attract Falcons fans for tailgate parties are promoted by the state’s film industry. Credit: georgia.org

These requests are on the wish list for the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, a list its residents hope will be included in a pending community benefits deal for the future Falcons stadium. Quality-of-life matters are joined by bigger items, such as a community center with a museum and repairs to bridges and sidewalks.

The list is to be presented Wednesday at Atlanta City Hall, where city officials and civic leaders are to continue discussing how to allocate $30 million through a community benefits deal. Two other stadium neighborhoods can’t agree on a project list and don’t have one to present for Vine City and English Avenue.

Projects to be funded with the $30 million aren’t the only component of the potential community benefits deal. Various civic leaders are pushing for provisions including ones that:

  • Enable people who live in the neighborhoods to get jobs building operating the stadium;
  • Provide for environmental clean-up and maintenance of the Proctor Creek basin, and access to jobs created by those efforts;
  • Increase the delivery of human services;
  • Stimulate economic development in some of the more blighted neighborhoods in Atlanta.

As negotiations have unfolded since the first meeting on July 2, the main topic for those on the panel has been the allocation of the $30 million. The process for allocating the money is the major item on the Wednesday evening agenda, accounting for a planned 35-minute segment on a 90-minute agenda.

Because Vine City and English Avenue don’t have a final project list to present, the agenda calls for the Castleberry Hill presentation to be followed by the discussion about how to distribute the money.

The two neighborhoods have approved what residents called “preliminary priorities for community benefits agreement.” The list was approved June 11 and sent to Mayor Kasim Reed in a letter dated June 20. The list was approved by a quorum of the membership, including residents and stakeholders, of NPU-L, according to the letter.

Vacant parking spaces in Castleberry Hill attract large numbers of Falcons fans on game days. Credit: trnsprtdigital.com

Vacant parking spaces in Castleberry Hill attract large numbers of Falcons fans on game days. Credit: trnsprtdigital.com

The letter cited five “benchmarks” that include:

  • Jobs;
  • Business development;
  • Housing;
  • Education;
  • Social services/Programs;
  • Community Facilities.

The letter also identified what it called “mitigations,” including scheduling games at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.; noise created by tailgating; tailpipe exhaust; and containing storm water run-off on the stadium site.

The total amount to address neighborhood concerns includes $15 million in city funds and $15 million provided by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

The city’s portion is funded through a special property tax district that was created in 1998 to promote communities on the west side of downtown Atlanta. According to Invest Atlanta, the purpose of the Westside Tax Allocation District Community Fund is to:

  • “Invest in a large, limited number of transformational projects that result in a lasting impact over a generation.”

The Blank Foundation was created in 1995 to promote communities in order to help youngsters and their families, according to its website. The guiding principal of the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund is to:

  • “Support initiatives based on opportunities for long-term impact and transformational change. The foundation will invest in non-profit partners with a track record of successful implementation of large, charitable projects.”

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.

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