Will the New Falcons Stadium Help Curb Crime in the Area?
It has taken three years to build the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and its completion came down to the wire. Ensuring that the stadium was ready for the Atlanta Falcons’ first home preseason game became the push. In fact, the Atlanta United soccer team had their home schedule rearranged to accommodate for the extended time needed to complete to stadium. Yet somehow, completing construction on Mercedes-Benz was the easy part. The hard part is going to be helping to turn around the struggling neighborhood the stadium calls home.
It was the same hope people held for Turner Field and the Georgia Dome. People hoped that the business the sports complexes brought to the local area would help turn blighted neighborhoods into promising, welcoming ones. Those complexes failed. Now people are pinning their hopes onto the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Agreements Made in Advance
Part of the deal to construct the new stadium was the promise of continued efforts of improving local communities. Community leaders are already seeing changes, and those changes have them feeling hopeful. One such leader is Howard Beckham, a CEO of a nonprofit, who also says that the initial suspicions local residents had is subsiding. Beckham points to efforts being made in job training, security and housing. All good things for the communities that surround the new stadium.
Others aren’t so sure. One local activist has pointed out that the construction of the stadium cut off access for many Westside neighborhoods to downtown. This means that residents either cannot or will have a very difficult time getting into downtown for job. Further development in the area could force longtime residents out of their homes.
An Immediate Impact?
City leaders are well aware of the skepticism, and they remember what happened when the promises tied to the construction of the Georgia Dome didn’t come to fruition. They are determined not to make the same mistakes. They do say that change will not be immediate. Some leaders expect renewal of neighboring communities to take as long as 20 years.
For now, people are getting a taste of what the area could be. New parks, educational programs and infrastructure has shown people that the promises are meant to be kept and that people are interested in turning things around. Atlanta police data shows that crime is down in some areas already. In some areas, crime is down by 40 percent.
Just how quickly and efficiently the promises are kept in totality remains to be seen. Right now, the goals include protecting residents, but pressure to continue to build is mounting. Citizens in the area are keeping a close eye on how well they are going to be taken care of, and how hard community leaders work to turn their neighborhoods around.
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