Lloyd Hawk, chairman of the board of trustees for Friendship Baptist Church, addresses the media following their vote to accept the $20 million offer from the Atlanta Falcons to secure their spot for a new stadium on Sunday.
Photo: Akili-Casundria Ramsess
Photo: Akili-Casundria Ramsess

South site announcement expected soon on stadium

A formal announcement that the new Atlanta Falcons stadium will be built on a site just south of the Georgia Dome will be made after legal documents are completed, including signed contracts with the two churches that voted to sell their property to make room for the facility, a person familiar with the situation said Monday.

The announcement – expected to be made jointly by the Falcons, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the City of Atlanta — is likely within a week or so, barring unforeseen developments, the person said.

The votes in recent days by the congregations of Mount Vernon Baptist and Friendship Baptist left no apparent major obstacles in the path of building the stadium on the south-of-the-Dome site preferred by the city and state. Lawyers were working on contract language Monday.

Also near completion: contracts among the Falcons, the GWCCA and the city that are more detailed than the memorandum of understanding signed in April and an environmental study of the site. The contracts, due to be done by Oct. 1, are to include site-specific issues.

The GWCCA also is attempting to acquire several other tiny parcels of land needed to complete the south site, but that process isn’t expected to be finished soon or to hold up site selection.

Estimates vary on how many additional parcels are needed, ranging from two to six, depending on how Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is re-routed around the stadium. The GWCCA has left open the option of using eminent domain to acquire the parcels if deals aren’t reached with landowners.

The original preference to build the stadium south of the Dome fell into doubt in July because neither church’s property had been acquired. At that point, the Falcons began a feasibility study of an alternate site one-half mile north of the Dome.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office negotiated a deal in early August for the Falcons to buy Friendship Baptist for $19.5 million, but the south site remained in jeopardy because the GWCCA, a state agency that had responsibility for acquiring Mount Vernon Baptist, was prevented by law from offering more than appraised value of $6.2 million.

The breakthrough came early this month when the Falcons told Reed, the south site’s strongest advocate, that the team would add $8.3 million to the GWCCA offer, enabling a $14.5 million deal with Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon’s congregation voted to accept the offer Thursday night, and Friendship’s congregation voted to accept its offer Sunday.

Proponents of the south-of-the-Dome spot did not wait for an official announcement of the site to cheer the news.

Mike Koblentz, chairman of the Northwest Community Alliance, a coalition of several neighborhood groups, said “congratulations must go out” to the mayor, the churches, the Falcons and the neighborhoods.

“We definitely want to thank the Falcons for ultimately listening to the wishes of the neighborhoods,” Koblentz wrote in a letter to his organization’s members. “The neighborhoods have been overwhelming in their advocacy of the south site.”

He added: “When it looked as if this was heading to the north site … the mayor refused to accept that notion.”

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