Mayor Kasim Reed on Friday outlined the steps he has taken to facilitate progress with Mt. Vernon Baptist Church towards an agreement that would allow the new stadium to be built on the south site. He announced that the church is seriously considering a $15.5 million offer, narrowing the gap between what the state was able to offer the church versus Mt. Vernon’s initial asking price.
“Last week, I said we needed to work harder to find a path for the stadium on the south site,” said Mayor Reed. “We are getting closer to that goal. As I have said from the beginning, the south site is the more sustainable location given its proximity to transit and co-location with the Georgia World Congress Center.”
In addition, Mayor Reed addressed his engagement with Morris Brown College to help secure a stronger, financially healthier future for the educational institution that has been a vital part of the city since 1881. Reed’s support for Morris Brown College long pre-dates the city’s involvement in facilitating the negotiations for a new stadium.
“From the first year of my administration, the city has been a key ally to Morris Brown College in its efforts to regain its financial footing, including the city’s engagement beginning in 2010 when the historic college was facing default on a federal loan balance of $9.5 million,” said Mayor Reed. “I personally advocated on Morris Brown’s behalf with the US Department of Education as they sought loan forgiveness. Since then, the city has taken numerous steps to show its support of Morris Brown at the request of its leadership.”
Morris Brown’s debt continued to accumulate and in August 2012, the city learned that the school’s debt exceeded $34 million, including $24 million of secured debt, and was on the brink of filing for bankruptcy. There were several groups of creditors and multiple claimants, and almost all of its property was encumbered in liens that had been accumulated over many years to support annual expenses.
Within a week of the College’s bankruptcy filing, and at the request of Morris Brown, Mayor Reed brought senior city and Invest Atlanta officials to the table to help determine a path to resolve the College’s bankruptcy and enable its survival.
In May 2013, after months of review and deliberation, the city offered Morris Brown a partnership proposal where the City would work to resolve the College’s land debt and take title to the entire campus portfolio debt free, then lease at fair market value the campus facilities that Morris Brown needed to pursue accreditation and maintain operations. The remaining properties would either be leased or sold for commercial purposes to recoup the investment by the city. Morris Brown would take responsibility for its ongoing operations and regaining their accreditation.
During the same time frame, Friendship Church indicated that two Morris Brown parcels were the most desirable property for them to relocate to and if the city should acquire the properties, they would like to assume ownership.
In a letter to the city in late May, Morris Brown rejected the partnership proposed by the city. It noted that they had a better plan with a different partner, and specifically, there was no counter offer presented to the city. If an alternate plan is presented that comprehensively resolves Morris Brown College’s $34 million of debt and redevelops the campus, the Mayor and the city would support that plan.