Hope reigns on west side over Falcons stadium deal

By Stan Washington Senior Writer | 3/22/2013, noon
The new Atlanta Falcons stadium deal approved this week could have a long-lasting positive impact on the nearby lower-income neighborhoods ...

ATLANTA – The new Atlanta Falcons stadium deal approved this week could have a long-lasting positive impact on the nearby lower-income neighborhoods of Vine City, English Avenue and Castleberry Hill, says City Councilman Ivory Young.

Young, who has lived in the area for 20 years and represented it on the council for 12, said the stadium deal provides a golden opportunity to make significant progress toward improving living conditions in the struggling west-side communities.

“Yes, we need housing, but rich or poor will leave a community that doesn't properly educated their children, doesn't have adequate access to grocery stores and public parks and a number of other resources,” Young said during a telephone interview this week.

Under a plan approved this week, the three communities of could see an infusion of up to $30 million and be part of a $50 million tax allocation zone, Young said. But he said leaders in the three communities don't want to “just throw money” at the problems plaguing their neighborhoods.

“For a good part of two years having anticipated this stadium, we've been working as a community to establish our priorities,” he said. “We want to perfect the process and to perfect programs, services and systems… while perfecting what the costs and the return on investments will be.”

The council voted 11-4 Monday to approve a plan to fund the $1 billion state-of-the art football stadium. The Georgia World Congress Authority, which owns the land where the stadium could be built, previously approved the plan, which included set-asides for community development.

Under the plan, no new property taxes or other new taxes would be levied against city residents or businesses, officials said.

After Monday’s vote, Mayor Kasim Reed applauded the council’s action.

“The agreement we negotiated is one of the best (stadium proposals) in America,” he said. “We're going to keep our team in downtown Atlanta. It's a very big deal. Every major American city whose team moved to the suburbs took a significant financial hit. We did the right thing today.”

City Council members Howard Shook, Kwanza Hall, Alan Wan and Felecia Moore voted no on the plan because they wanted to refer it to committee for further study.

“Given more time to examine documents and ask questions, I might ultimately have voted in favor of the resolution,” Shook said in a statement. “But I believe that council’s unprecedented haste to adopt this complex, multi-party, billion-dollar deal strained our ties with the public, and establishes a new political ‘normal’ that may not always serve the greater good.”

Such criticism notwithstanding, however, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell said he believes the council did the right thing in passing the measure.

“Rest assured that this is a comprehensive agreement that protects taxpayers and commits to ongoing community partnership and local participation,” Mitchell said in a statement. “As such, it is an arrangement that I support.”

Now that the council has approved the measure, only two small hurdles prevent Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank from getting his new retractable roof stadium by 2017.