ATLANTA (WXIA) -- Tuesday morning, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city had reached a deal to purchase one of two churches sitting on the location called the most desirable for the new Atlanta stadium.
The deal with Friendship Baptist Church would see the city purchasing the facility for $19.5 million. Friendship Baptist is located on Martin Luther King Drive, south of the Georgia Dome. The second church on that site is Mount Vernon Baptist Church, which has been in negotiation with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.
"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 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."
Talks with the two churches have been stalled as an August 1 feasibility deadline had approached. On July 30, the Atlanta Falcons and the GWCC Authority had announced that the site to the south of the present Georgia Dome was not feasible, since an agreement to acquire all of the land to the south of the Dome was not in place. The Falcons said attention should be shifted to the so-called "north site," on Ivan Allen Boulevard to the north of the World Congress Center.
The city and the Falcons have expressed an ongoing preference for the "south site," along Martin Luther King Drive, and very close to both the Georgia World Congress Center and Vine City MARTA stations. The north site lies about a half-mile north of the present Georgia Dome.
Reed said the Georgia World Congress Center is right to explore the north site, but he felt it was not the best 20- 30-year agreement. He said the city as a whole must come together and work harder.
The future, according to Reed, is to get on a train, go to a game and get back on a train to go home. With the south site, he said, the vision for the city in ten or 20 years can be carried out.
While attention was shifting toward the feasibility of use of the north site, the city continued negotiations with leaders at Friendship Baptist.
According to Maria Saporta with 11Alive content partner, the Atlanta Business Chronicle, leaders at Mount Vernon Baptist told members of their congregation that they were holding a "family meeting" on August 13 to talk about their discussions with the GWCC Authority, despite talks between the two parties breaking off last week after it was revealed that the two sides were some $14 million apart.
Reed said that former mayor Andrew Young should serve as a "conversation facilitator" between Mount Vernon and the city. "He is willing to help," Reed said.
Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay was exceedingly happy with the city's efforts to land a deal with Friendship Baptist.
"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," McKay said in a statement. "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."