Deal Reached to Purchase Friendship Baptist Church
Historic church agrees to sell for $19.5 million
By A. Scott Walton Executive Editor | 8/6/2013, 11:49 a.m.
ATLANTA -- In an impassioned press conference that lasted nearly an hour, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that he had successfully negotiated a deal to purchase the Friendship Baptist Church near the Georgia Dome and help pave the way for a new downtown stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.
Reed negotiated the deal on behalf of the Falcons organization, which will bear the sole responsibility of paying Friendship Baptist’s asking price for its 151-year-old property. The eight-week process of reaching agreement lasted past the August 1 deadline that the team had imposed for finalizing the sale.
“Today is August 6, and we have an agreement to purchase Friendship Baptist for $19.5 million,” Reed said with a wide, relieved grin. “Their board of trustees still has to ratify it, and they still have to take it before the congregation for a final vote of approval. But I think it’s reasonable to allow them to digest (the agreement).”
The deal could be nullified, however, if directors of the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) cannot convince the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church to sell its property to make way for the proposed $1 billion stadium as well. The GWCC has been negotiating with Mt. Vernon separately from the Falcons-Friendship Baptist wrangling. Last week, the GWCC notified Mt. Vernon that it had made its “best and final offer” of $6.2 million. Board members at Mt. Vernon unanimously reject that sum and talks have since stalled.
Reed said that he’d consulted with former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young for advice on how to move the process of securing a feasible site south of the Dome along. Just prior to the August 1 deadline, the Falcons and the GWCC agreed that a site north of the Dome (at the intersection of Ivan Allen, Jr. Boulevard and Northside Drive) should be studied for the feasibility of building the stadium there.
The GWCC is a state agency that is bound by law regarding how much it can pay for appraised property.
“What (Young) told me was to try harder,” Reed said.
“I am going to request that the GWCC renew its efforts to come to an agreement with Mt. Vernon.”
Reed added that he was willing to insert himself into the GWCC-Mt. Vernon negotiations, and plans to meet for the first time with the Mt. Vernon pastor, Rev. R.K. Turner.
“Ambassador Young can serve as a person that facilitates the conversation between Mt. Vernon and the GWCC,” Reed said. “And he has told me that if the people want him to help he is willing to help.”
Lloyd Hawk, chairman of the board of trustees at Friendship Baptist, expressed satisfaction with the agreement in principle.
“We have the proposal, and now the congregation’s going to vote on it,” said Hawk, who estimates that Friendship Baptist has “a little over 400” members.