by Marc McAfee, 11Alive.com (WXIA-TV)
Atlanta -- It's a difference of opinion over the price of Friendship: $15.5 million or $24.5 million. Friendship Baptist Church is one of two churches that will have to move in order for a new stadium to be built on the south side of the Georgia Dome.
For the first time publicly, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed offered a glimpse into the negotiation process. He told 11Alive News the city's initial offer was for $13.5 million dollars. The church came back with $24.5 million.
"We can't afford that, so we sent back an offer of 15.5 million dollars," Reed said.
The mayor said the negotiations are going well, and will probably move faster than other similar sized projects around the country. But he still wants to allow the church time to come to their own conclusion.
"That's a very important value for me, because I understand how important Friendship Baptists Church is, and their legacy to the City of Atlanta," Reed said.
Friendship Baptist Church leaders declined to talk about the process or the numbers Reed quoted. They said their lawyers are meeting with City of Atlanta representatives Thursday afternoon.
Reed said he was "60-70% confident" a deal would be reached in the next 2-3 weeks.
The state is handling negotiations for Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, which sits across the street from Friendship and closer to the Dome.
The city needs the Friendship property in order to route traffic around the new stadium. If they don't strike a deal by August, the project will automatically move to the north side of the stadium. Reed said he prefers the south side for the long term growth prospects of the city, and is confident that's where the stadium will end up.
"It's a process I think," Reed said of the negotiations. "I think I know how the movie ends, but you still have to go through it and be respectful during the process."