The Doraville City Council voted unanimously Oct. 19 to oppose the construction of a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons in a defunct General Motors factory that has become central to the city’s hopes for revitalization.
There are no definitive plans to build a stadium at the 100-acre factory site, which was shuttered last year. But the council protested what it claims are DeKalb County government’s quiet hopes to build the stadium there.
DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis could not be reached for comment, but county officials have not publicly ruled out pursing a stadium project in Doraville, saying they want development that will financially benefit the county.
The vote followed a fiery town hall meeting where city officials said residents overwhelmingly protested the presence of a stadium because of the excess traffic it would attract, among other development issues.
“Since CEO Ellis has taken office, our relationship and communication with the county has never been better,” stated a joint statement from council members. “We just have a different vision in this particular instance of what the best vision is for Doraville and our neighboring communities. We have no doubts that both governments in partnership with the private sector will work together for a development that everyone can get excited about.”
The presence of a major sports stadium isn’t proven to revitalize the areas surrounding it, said Luke Howe, an assistant to Mayor Ray Jenkins. Doraville, he said, is a city searching for an identity not unlike well-developed areas such as Decatur or Chamblee, and a stadium could threaten the city’s ability to discover that.
Howe said the surrounding area’s vibrancy could he robbed if a stadium is built.
Doraville, long a manufacturing center in DeKalb County, is hoping to move away from its industrial roots, and city officials, including candidates for city council, have expressed a desire to lure mixed-use development that would signal that transition. Many city officials are looking for science- and technology-oriented industries to flourish in Doraville.
“If it’s right, it will create that sense of place that’s vanished,” Howe said. “Decatur has it; Chamblee is starting to develop it. …. All these other towns have that sense of place, but we don’t, and we deserve it. We have been integral to the DeKalb economy for years.”
A real estate company several years ago working for the city also said the GM factory location was best suited for a research park because of its size and proximity to the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and metro universities. City officials have also lobbied for a charter middle/high school focused on math, science and international studies, a city statement said.
“We have lost a massive amount of jobs, businesses and revenue,” the council’s joint statement reads. “All these factors have created a perfect economic storm that has left the city reeling, but we remain resilient and more importantly focused. Make no mistakes: We need to spur this redevelopment, but we must do it in a way that is sustainable and consistent with our goals and planning.”