The Atlanta City Council mowed down another potential barrier to the Falcons’ new downtown stadium Monday night as they unanimously approved a $30 million community benefits plan for the areas that will surround the new stadium. The plan is designed to direct funding to bolster the neighborhoods surrounding the new $1.2 billion Falcons stadium, according to a release from the council
Approved by a vote of 14-0 and required before the initial $200 million in bonds backed by hotel-motel taxes for stadium construction can be issued, the plan was developed in concert with stakeholders in the English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill neighborhoods. These communities are directly impacted by the planned development of the new multi-purpose Falcons stadium.
Prior to Monday night’s vote, the council had been met with mounting opposition from members of the affected communities, with aany residents still concerned that the plan included only a list of broad suggestions on how to spend the redevelopment money, rather than guarantees about which projects would be funded.
“I’m appealing to you to reject the document that falsely and deceptively represents the wishes of the community,” Anthony Motley, an English Avenue pastor, told radio station WABE.
In November, Motley and other residents of Vine City and English Avenue released a video demanding that city leaders to fix their neighborhood and called for a binding legal agreement before the stadium is built.
Motley had previously called the treatment of residents in the areas, “insulting, insensitive, demeaning, dishonest, despicable and deceptive,” and accused the City Council of changing the wording of a deal between the neighborhoods and the city for the Falcons stadium.
“It gives the city the ability to put that plan and others on the shelf. We want an agreement, a binding legal contract,” said Rev. Motley.
The community benefits plan ratified on Monday night calls for initiatives such as community-based job training opportunities, affordable housing, environmental mitigations, special event enforcement programs, historic preservation, health and wellness programs and economic development.
“For those of us who live in Vine City as I have for 22 years, residents and stakeholders of English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill have no tolerance to allow these community benefit investments to be plagued by the same mistakes made with previous investments to uplift these neighborhoods,” said City Councilman Ivory Lee Young, Jr.
“We have spent months engaging the impacted neighborhoods to perfect the development of this community benefits plan without pre-determining which project or organizations were best suited to respond to the plan priorities. Invest Atlanta and The Arthur Blank Family Foundation have a great track record in working with the community to implement the community’s priorities. I am confident that this is the start of a transformative process that finally reaches the people who need it most,” Young said.
Community projects will be funded through the following:
The Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund
- · The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation will voluntarily make charitable contributions of $15 million to catalytic projects that will ignite positive change and improvements in the quality of life in Vine City, English Avenue, Castleberry Hill and adjacent neighborhoods. These charitable contributions will be made at the discretion of the trustees of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation under the guidance of the community benefits plan.
The Westside Tax Allocation District (TAD) Community Improvement Fund
- · $15 million in TAD funding will be made available by Invest Atlanta to finance capital projects of varying sizes that remove blighted conditions, expand redevelopment efforts, leverage other public and private funding sources and result in job creation and quality of life enhancement for residents of Vine City, English Avenue and Castleberry Hill.
Organizations must apply to both Invest Atlanta, which oversees TAD dollars, and The Arthur M. Blank Foundation to receive funding for their projects.
The city council also unanimously approved a resolution creating a workforce training and job creation advisory committee as it relates to the construction of the new stadium. The committee will serve as a city advisory panel on future skilled workforce training opportunities and employment information.