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Monday, April 30, 2012

Castleberry Hill residents open to alternate stadium site

Vine City and English Avenue residents have long cursed the Georgia World Congress Center and Georgia Dome for acting as a massive wall between the historic communities and the revitalization of downtown Atlanta. So we weren't surprised when they expressed concern over talks of a possible open-air football stadium along Northside Drive - a project that most likely would've isolated them even more from Atlanta's central business district. The location would create a traffic nightmare for the area because, unlike the Georgia Dome, it's not located near a MARTA rail stop.

But that might not happen. State officials and Atlanta Falcons executives revealed last week that they were also considering an alternate site for the new stadium, which we now know will cost nearly $1 billion and feature a retractable roof, located south of the Georgia Dome and west of "the Gulch." The potential site would be close to MARTA and could be incorporated into the proposed downtown train terminal. It'd also be very close to Castleberry Hill, where residents have co-existed with game day tailgaters and the assorted crowds attracted to other events at the Dome.

I first thought that the idea of building a stadium even closer to the neighborhood, which over the decades has watched its former industrial warehouses evolve into art galleries and lofts, would've been met with criticism. But apparently not. Castleberry Hill Neighborhood Association President Eric Morrisey told CL late last week via email:

Co-locating a new stadium near an existing MARTA station and the planned [downtown train terminal] development is more logical than building a stadium away from heavy rail. A new stadium with the right design could work really well in the area and help businesses and the neighborhood. If the plans advance, I encourage all involved in the development to actively engage Castleberry Hill, the AUC, Vine City, and Downtown in the dialogue, as we would be the communities most directly impacted by the development.

Now, that's not a blessing and a rolling out of the welcome mat. But it is a sign that the neighborhood's willing to work with officials should they decide the public's massive gift to Arthur Blank Falcons' new home needs to be closer to mass transit. Which, really, it does.

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