Mayor Kasim Reed formally announced Tuesday that the city had reached an agreement, at least in principle, to purchase Friendship Baptist Church, one of two churches located on the south site of a projected new $1 billion stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. The church board accepted a $19.5 million offer to sell its property in the event that the south site is selected for the new stadium.
Reed said at the announcement that no city funds would be used to close the transaction and that the Falcons would finance the cost of acquiring the property.
“I am pleased with the solid progress on the construction of a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons in the heart of our city,” said Mayor Reed. “Most important of all, we have kept our promise to treat the members of Friendship Baptist Church with dignity and respect and reach an agreement that is fair and reasonable for all parties. With both the south and north site as possible locations for the new stadium, factors such as transportation, neighborhood impact, and infrastructure needs can be better weighed and balanced.”
Also present at the announcement was Lloyd Hawk, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Friendship Baptist Church. Hawk said at the conference that he will still have to get the deal ratified by his congregation, but feels confident that he has support to do so.
“We are pleased to have gotten to this important milestone in the process,” said Hawk in a statement. “We understand that there still is work to be done to finalize an agreement that we can take to our congregation for them to discuss and make the final decision, and we look forward to working with the Falcons to continue moving forward in the best interest of the church and the community.”
After failing to meet the Aug. 1 deadline for acquiring the two churches, the south site was considered lost by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA).
The GWCCA reportedly informed Mount Vernon Baptist Church that it was “officially terminating negotiations” and “abandoning its efforts” to purchase the church’s property after the church “unanimously rejected” the GWCCA’s “best and final offer” of $6.2 million.
But on Tuesday Reed emphasized his continued commitment to the south site and said he would be personally speaking with Mount Vernon’s pastor and enlisting the help of former Atlanta mayor and ambassador Andrew Young to spur the discussions with the church. Reed said he had no previous contact with Mount Vernon.
The Falcons have been considering two possible locations for a new $1 billion retractable roof stadium. The north site is located at Ivan Allen Boulevard and Northside Drive, about a half-mile away from the Georgia Dome and Vine City MARTA station, while the south site is at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Northside Drive. While supportive of both locations, Reed and his administration have expressed a strong preference for the south site due to its proximity to two MARTA stations and the Georgia World Congress Center.
With an agreement reached with Friendship Baptist Church, Reed said that he is hopeful that the GWCCA would continue to work toward an agreement with Mount Vernon Baptist Church in order for the Falcons to acquire the property necessary to build on the south site.
On Tuesday, Rich McKay, President and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons thanked Reed and city officials for their efforts to secure the south site for consideration. McKay said the Falcons will continue to conduct due diligence on the north site option to determine its potential feasibility as a new location.
“We commend Mayor Reed, city officials and the congregation of Friendship Baptist Church for all of their hard work in helping us reach a tentative agreement for the acquisition of the church property,” said McKay. “The church property purchase price falls within the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding for the acquisition of property adjacent to the proposed south site for the new stadium. This is certainly a positive development for the south site.”