• Friendship Baptist Church accepts $19.5 million buyout for new stadium


    The Friendship Baptist Church congregation overwhelmingly approved the city of Atlanta's $19.5 million offer to sell the church's property to make room for the new Atlanta Falcons stadium.

    Channel 2 Action News first broke the news about the long-awaited decision on Facebook and Twitter.

    Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach was at the northwest Atlanta church Sunday afternoon during the vote. He said members met for about 45 minutes after service, but only 100 church trustees cast votes.

    Church leaders wouldn't tell Channel 2 Action News the final vote, but they did say the $19.5 million deal was overwhelmingly approved.

    Friendship has been at its Mitchell Street location for more than 130 years.

    Gehlbach said members had mixed emotions as they left the church.


    "I'm frustrated," said one man.

    Another shared a different point of view.

    "It was the right thing to do," he said.

    Another person told Gehlbach, "It was a good meeting," but another said "Everybody's sad about (the decision)."

    One member agreed with the decision to sell and move, but is sad to see the building go.

    "It makes a lot of sense. Business sense and sometimes business and religion don't quite meet," said church member Lafayette Beamon.

    The head of Friendship's board of trustees said the church is considering new locations, all within the community and hope to use money from the buyout to expand their ministries.

    "We all know a stadium doesn't transform a community, what had happened though is all the attention that has been brought to this community brings us all the opportunity to now take advantage of that and see if we can finally ever get this community to where it really should be," said Lloyd Hawk.

    Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who helped negotiate deals with Friendship and Mount Vernon Baptist Church, the church across the street which accepted the city's $14.5 million buyout, said he's happy with the outcome and the process.

    "We never used the eminent domain tactic or threat and we came to what, by all opinions that I'm aware of, is a fair arrangement, so I feel terrific," Reed said.

    Friendship leaders said they'll decide on a new permanent location in the next 60 to 90 days. Things should start moving a lot faster on plans for the new billion dollar stadium. The Falcons hope to move in to their new home by kickoff in the fall of 2017.

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