Historic Atlanta Churches in the Way of New Stadium


Members of two historic Atlanta churches in the path of a proposed new NFL stadium are considering their options.

Mt. Vernon Baptist Church is in the middle of the favored site for the Atlanta Falcons’ new home, just south of the Georgia Dome.

Friendship Baptist Church is just across Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, which would have to be rerouted through the church’s property to make way for the new stadium.

Both congregations now face the weighty decision on whether to sell out to make way for a new stadium — and if so for how much.

“There’s no exact details yet on a proposal,” Lloyd Hawk, who chairs Friendship’s board, said at a recent service. “And when we do, we will bring to the congregation a vote to decide. We are a Baptist church, and at a Baptist church all decisions go to the congregation.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Blank both say they prefer the site near the churches, which would keep the stadium about as close as the Dome is to MARTA and CNN Center. But they’re holding an option for a site about a half-mile north if negotiations with the churches fail.

The churches have storied histories in the city. The late Mayor Maynard Jackson’s father once preached at Friendship Baptist, a congregation whose history dates to the early days of the American Civil War. Morehouse College housed classes in the congregation in 1879 and Spelman began in the church’s basement two years later.

Mt. Vernon, which began as a storefront church in 1915, moved several times before landing at the property near the Georgia Dome, including a 1955 move because of road expansion.

The negotiations are ongoing as other details of the stadium agreement crystallize. Georgia World Congress Center officials are invited to speak at Mt. Vernon on March 26. And city officials have already met several times with Friendship’s leaders to start hashing out a deal.

“I’m confident we’ll get something done,” said Reed.

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