Neighborhoods near new Falcons stadium to get $30 million in improvements

ATLANTA---The Atlanta City Council on Monday approved a comprehensive community benefits plan designed to direct $30 million in funding to bolster the neighborhoods surrounding the new $1.2 billion Falcons stadium.

The plan, approved unanimously by a 14-0 vote, is required before $200 million in bonds backed by hotel-motel taxes for stadium construction can be issued. The communities that will be impacted include the English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill neighborhoods.

The plan 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.

City Councilmember Ivory Lee Young, Jr. said the city will make sure the projects get done.

"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 Councilmember 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,² 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 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.

A task force also will be created to develop recommendations for commercial and residential development, public safety and transportation opportunities in the neighborhoods around Turner Field. The measure was sponsored by City Councilmember Carla Smith, whose district encompasses the downtown stadium and surrounding neighborhoods, and approved unanimously by the City Council.

A separate task force will identify an assortment of issues currently facing neighborhoods that will be impacted by the Atlanta Braves' move from Turner Field to Cobb County. The task force will promote a vibrant and safe community with sustained economic development after the Braves leave Turner Field in 2017.

The Atlanta Braves announced plans on Nov. 11 to relocate to a $672 million new stadium in Cobb.

Turner Field has served as home to the Atlanta Braves since 1997, following its move from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, their home ballpark from 1966 to 1996. Turner Field was originally built as Centennial Olympic Stadium in 1996 to serve as the centerpiece of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The current ballpark, which is owned jointly by the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta/Fulton County Recreation Authority, sits at the intersection of three neighborhoods: Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown, and close to Grant Park.

The Turner Field Task Force will consist of the following members:
· The District 1 Councilmember (to serve as chair)

· The president of Council

· The mayor or his designee

· The Atlanta Braves or their designee

· The presidents of the Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, Summerhill and Grant
Park Neighborhood Associations

· The chair of NPU-V

· The president of Georgia State University or his designee

· The executive director of the Fulton County Recreation Authority or her

· The chief executive officer of Invest Atlanta or his designee

· A city of Atlanta Department of Law representative

· A city of Atlanta Department of Finance representative

· A city of Atlanta Department of Planning representative

· The president of Central Atlanta Progress or his designee

· The District 6 Fulton County Commissioner

· The District 36 Georgia State Senator

· The District 58 Georgia State Representative

· The District 59 Georgia State Representative

The task force will convene within 60  days after a majority of the task force members are confirmed by the Atlanta City Council.

The task force will have six months to come up with recommendations. The period may be extended for an additional six  months, if needed and upon the adoption of a new resolution.