More potential parking and tail-gating space
One-half mile hike from MARTA
Contaminated soil that would have to be removed or remediated
Power lines that would have to be relocated
South site (Martin Luther King Jr. and Northside drives)
Excellent MARTA access
Closer to Georgia World Congress Center so events could be held in both facilities
Proximity to proposed downtown multi-modal terminal
Requires purchasing and razing Friendship Baptist and Mount Vernon Baptist churches
Requires large infrastructure improvements, including reconfiguring Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
Closeness to Georgia Dome complicates construction
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters have been pursuing developments surrounding the new Falcons stadium for more than three years. Much of the information has been gathered by examining public records, as well as from interviews with people on all sides of the deal. As the stadium planners try to determine where the stadium will be built, The AJC will keep readers informed of all the latest developments.
Despite troubled negotiations to buy land for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium, planners shouldn’t set their sights on the alternative location just north of the Georgia Dome because it’s too close to residences, neighborhood associations say.
A self-imposed Thursday deadline is approaching to reach agreements with Friendship Baptist Church and Mount Vernon Baptist Church, both of which would need to be purchased and razed for the stadium to find a home on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the preferred site. But neighbors near Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and Northside Drive say backers of the project can expect vigorous opposition to shifting the $1 billion project there.
» RELATED: Two sites still in play for stadium
» VIDEO: Officials take closer look a north site
“If you look at the plan, it would put the stadium within about 100 feet of about 150 homes in the area,” said Suzanne Bair, president of the Marietta Street Artery Association.
“It would pretty much be like listening to the game in your living room,” she said. “We just think that would be too intrusive into our lives.”
For more than a year, stadium backers have focused on a site immediately south of the Dome, near the intersection of MLK and Northside drives. The area, adjacent to the Dome, is preferred because of its access to two MARTA stations and a proposed downtown multi-modal station.
But the upcoming deadline revived discussions of building on the alternate “north site,” which currently contains the Georgia World Congress Center’s truck marshaling yard and “Yellow” parking lot. An agreement between the Falcons and the GWCC Authority states that, if the south site is not feasible — including property acquisition — by Aug. 1, attention can shift to a study of the north site. That site was originally favored by the Falcons when discussions began about three years ago.
Negotiations to purchase the churches have been tense. In June, Mayor Kasim Reed said Friendship rejected the city’s $15.5 million offer and instead wanted $24.5 million, a price tag church leaders denied.
Lloyd Hawk, chairman of Friendship’s board of trustees, said Friday that no deal has been reached between the church and the city but that it is possible an agreement might be struck by the Aug. 1 deadline.
“We’re still all at the table and still talking, and it’s positive,” Hawk said.
The city is handling negotiations with Friendship, while the GWCC Authority heads discussions with Mount Vernon. The GWCCA has declined to comment on its negotiations, and Mount Vernon has remained mum despite phone calls and visits to the church.
The GWCCA’s stadium committee met this week to consider granting the Falcons access to the north site to begin due diligence work. The committee then went into closed executive session to discuss property acquisition and did not emerge until almost an hour later, an unusually long meeting for the group.
Afterward, board member David Allman declined to divulge what went on behind closed doors. But, he said, “With this stuff going on, this deal is very fragile right now.”
The full authority will take up the matter on Tuesday.
Mike Koblentz, chairman of the Northwest Community Alliance, a coalition of neighborhoods and “neighborhood friendly” developers and businesses, said his organization is “just so adamantly opposed” to the north site.
“It would perpetuate the wall between the Dome/World Congress Center and the neighborhoods,” he said. “There’s way more opportunity for connectivity and for change of Vine City and English Avenue if it’s at the south site, let alone having MARTA there.”
Some Atlanta City Council members also expressed concern about the north site, with Councilman Ivory Lee Young calling it “simply an inferior choice.”
“This particular site causes extreme hardship for adjacent communities,” Young said. “The means of egress are non-existent. Ivan Allen (Jr. Boulevard) is grossly under-developed and under-designed to accommodate the needs of a stadium and can’t accommodate the traffic it has to support.”
Councilman Michael Julian Bond, a longtime Vine City resident, said he doesn’t have a personal preference in the matter. Still, he believes the north site poses pedestrian access problems while the south site would benefit the city’s larger transportation goals.
“The south site would probably work better for connectivity … but it would sadden me to see Friendship Baptist and Mount Vernon demolished,” he said. “For me, if the negotiations with the churches don’t work out, the northern site will be just fine.”
Beyond the community’s resistance, there are physical concerns about the north site. A 2011 study by architecture firm Populous cited two primary issues: “contaminated” soil and overhead power lines.
The power lines run north/south through the center of the site and along the western edge. “In order for the stadium to be built (on the site), these transmission lines must be relocated,” stated the study, which was conducted for the GWCCA.
The contaminated soil is “located on the northern side of the Yellow (parking) lot,” the study said. “Because the stadium (would be) sited over a portion of this soil, approximately 3.5 acres will need to be disturbed or removed.”
Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay acknowledged this week that the issues raised in the study will need to be revisited.
“We need to go back and look at all those and understand the costs of all of that and determine if that site is buildable, which we think it is,” McKay said. “We think, rather than bet on whether the south site will be done, we (should) remain on track by doing feasibility on the north site.”
Staff writer Katie Leslie contributed to this article.