Morris Brown alumni lash out over stadium deal

by: Jim Strickland Updated:


ATLANTA - Key alumni of bankrupt Morris Brown College lashed out Friday at plans to sell off the school as part of the stadium deal, even as Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Jim Strickland discovered evidence that the school's desire to seek a buyer for the college may have been in the works for weeks.

Opponents claimed the Atlanta Falcons and the city's involvement agency to help buy the Middleton Tower dorms was a backroom deal exposed when Channel 2 Action News broke the story this week that the city would facilitate a sale to help relocate Friendship Baptist Church on the dormitory site.

"Channel 2 released documents that the initial agreement between the Falcons, the city and Friendship included a land grab at Morris Brown College," said State Sen. Vincent Fort.

Fort is a former history professor at the school.

"We think that (Falcons owner) Arthur Blank ought to back off, we believe the city of Atlanta ought to back off," said Fort.

The current church would be razed to make room for a new stadium south of the Georgia Dome. The south site is preferred by Mayor Kasim Reed and the Georgia World Congress Center.

Strickland discovered in a recent bankruptcy filing that Morris Brown Trustee Chairman, Bishop Preston Williams, attested a sale to someone is coming.

"MBC intends to sell the Twin Towers in order to obtain funding for a plan of reorganization," states a document bearing Williams' signature.

Sources with knowledge of Morris Brown's bankruptcy told Strickland the college already has two offers for the towers and adjacent parking lots, each one for "substantially more" than $1 million.

The church's agreement with the city to move says if they buy for a price above that threshold the Falcons must pay the difference.

Any overage is in addition to the $19.5 million the Falcons have pledged for the church property, in a deal negotiated by the city and trumped by Reed in a news conference Tuesday.

"The church in this instance is being too greedy, and it is over reaching," said former councilman Derrick Boazman, who graduated from the college in 1990 and lived in the dorms in question.

"This isn't greed. In fact I think the church has given a whole lot," said Friendship Baptist Church attorney Rod Edmond.

Edmond is the church's point man in the deal and granted Strickland his first interview on the church sale.

Edmond said the church is looking at alternative sites, but if the college believes a sale can help it survive, the church will try to help with an offer.

Its agreement with the city anticipates that Friendship will not be able to afford the site without help from Blank.

"This church has to have a certain degree of comfort ... feeling that they can comfortably move without going into debt," Edmond said.

The Falcons declined to comment.

Reed's office issued a statement saying in part that any notion the mayor was part of a land grab was "preposterous."

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