by: Katie Leslie Updated:
ATLANTA - An ebullient Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed confirmed Friday that offers are in place to purchase both churches that must move for the new $1 billion Atlanta Falcons stadium to be built on his preferred site.
Reed confirmed at a press conference today that Mount Vernon Baptist Church leaders have tentatively agreed to drop their asking price to $14.5 million, down from their original $20.4 million request. Reed said the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to pay the difference between the $6.2 million state officials can pay and what the church wants.
Mount Vernon officials have until now remained silent during negotiations, but joined Reed and leaders from Friendship Baptist Church at the event. But like Friendship Baptist Church, the Mount Vernon congregation is expected to vote on the latest offer in coming weeks.
Pastor Rodney Turner, head of Mount Vernon, said Friday he was pleased with the current proposal and said the additional money made a difference in negotiations.
“We’ve been in prayer (over the decisions),” he said. “We’re a church, not a business.”
In an effort to build the future stadium on Martin Luther King Jr. and Northside Drives – instead of a location a half mile north of the Georgia Dome — city officials have effectively acted as lead negotiators between Friendship Baptist and Mount Vernon Baptist and their respective buyers: the Atlanta Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center.
Talks broke down in late July between Mount Vernon and state officials with the GWCCA, which must purchase that property if the future stadium is to be built on the south site. (The state will ultimately own the retractable roof stadium. The Georgia Dome will be demolished.)
The GWCCA walked away from negotiations after the church rejected a $6.2 million offer – the highest officials say they can pay according to a state law preventing them from going higher than appraised value. At that time, the church asked for $20.4 million, a price that later dropped to $15.5 million.
Days after those negotiations collapsed, Reed announced the city reached a $19.5 million deal with Friendship Baptist on behalf of the Falcons and stepped into discussions with Mount Vernon in an effort to keep the south site alive.
State officials could not be reached for immediate comment, but are expected to honor their original $6.2 million request.
Reed and many city officials have long preferred the south site for its proximity to two MARTA stations, a future multi-modal passenger station and the short distance to downtown venues.
Throughout August, the Atlanta Falcons have conducted due diligence studies of the “north site” located on Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and Northside Drive. The team has until Oct. 1 to complete those studies, but Falcons owner Arthur Blank said last month he hoped the location would be resolved before that deadline.