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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Residents blast decision to close part of MLK Drive for stadium construction

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Part of ML King drive had already been bulldozed by the time protests against its destruction started yesterday.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Part of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive had already been bulldozed by the time protests against the road's future started yesterday.

A handful of people gathered yesterday at the corner of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Northside drives to protest against the state and Atlanta Falcons' plans to realign the vital road to make room for the proposed $1.2 billion stadium.

Protesters fear that the street will abruptly end at Northside Drive, cutting off residents of west side neighborhoods such as Vine City, English Avenue, and the Atlanta University Center from Downtown. They're also upset that the move destroys part of the history of the street named after the Civil Rights figure. The city has already purchased two historic African-American churches along MLK Drive to make way for the stadium.

While the protesters voiced their concerns to the media, a viaduct portion of MLK Drive between Spring Street and Northside Drive was already being demolished.

"I am out here because of historic preservation and to make sure the community stays whole," said Yvonne Jones, chair of NPU-L, which encompasses some of the impacted neighborhoods. She held a protest sign with a large question mark and the words "Save Our History!"

"We don't want to be knocked out, the connectivity of ML King is important for our community," Jones said. "If they can develop a world-class stadium, there is no reason they can't help develop a world-class community for the residents there, for the people who live there now."

Protesters stood at the corner of Northside and MLK Drive yesterday afternoon.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Protesters stood at the corner of Northside and MLK Drive yesterday afternoon.

Some protesters said the events unfolding before them were not unfamiliar. When the Georgia Dome was built in the early 1990s, a street that connected residents to Downtown was disconnected because of the arena's construction, leaving only Ivan Allen Boulevard and MLK Drive as the only access points to the heart of the city.

"When they built the first Dome, they said it was going to help our neighborhood," said protestor Jo-Lynn Gillian. "And now it's even worse."

The Atlanta City Council voted in November to abandon this of MLK Drive to the state. Still, the sudden destruction of the bridge took some City Councilmembers, including Michael Julian Bond, by surprise.

"We have made commitments that we'll keep the community abreast," he told 11 Alive. "Then to have our own department not even keep us informed as to when it's going to start, it not only complements confidence from people on the outside, but it undercuts my confidence as well."

City councilmembers are set to discuss plans next week to abandon additional streets needed for stadium construction.

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