by: Tom Regan Updated:ATLANTA —
A coalition of west side community leaders near the site of the new Falcons stadium say they are opposed to a plan that would close historic Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in front of the stadium site and re-direct traffic to another street.
“It’s tantamount to having a Berlin Wall to separate residents from the west side to downtown,” said the West Side United Coalition President, Bishop John Lewis.
Lewis joined other leaders, including those from the Atlanta University Center Consortium, to speak against a proposal to re-direct traffic onto Mitchell Street and connect it to Northside Drive. They said closing part of MLK will physically and symbolically disconnect west side communities from the downtown and hinder revitalization after the stadium is constructed.
“Martin Luther King Drive has historical significance but it’s also a very important corridor with respect to business development and access to business. By closing it, you really lead to disinvestment of this particular community,” said Atlanta University Center Consortium Executive Director Dr. Sherry Turner.
Group members said they favor another proposed realignment plan that would reconfigure MLK Drive to include a curve that would take it around the stadium complex. The plan was designed by Michael Dobbins, a former Atlanta city planner and professor of city planning at Georgia Tech. His son showed Channel 2’s Tom Regan a sketch of the proposal.
“It doesn’t cut off Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King becomes a boulevard for the city. And it provides connectivity for people coming from north and south,” said West Side Coalition member Jeb Dobbins.
City officials and Falcons management are still gathering information before reaching a decision on realigning the street to make room for the stadium.
“It’s important to understand no final decisions have been made yet on any permanent street closings or configurations for the site of the new Falcons stadium. We have been discussing proposals with the surrounding communities and the Falcons and we are working to ensure all parties -- including the City Council, are kept abreast of these developments,” said Interim Director of Communication Carlos Campos.