Mayor Reed mediating Falcons stadium site talks

$19.5 million deal lands stadium church

City officials have reached a $19.5 million deal on behalf of the Atlanta Falcons to buy Friendship Baptist Church, one of two churches key to the new Falcons stadium being built on the preferred “south site,” Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday.

The church must ratify the agreement with its congregation, said Reed, who then called upon the Georgia World Congress Center to re-open talks with Mount Vernon Baptist Church. His announcement comes days after the GWCCA said it walked away from negotiations with Mount Vernon after the church rejected a $6.2 million offer. Documents later revealed the state and church were $14 million apart in asking price.

“I think I’ve done enough in this process to ask that they try harder. Because that’s what folks ask me to do, right?” he said.

Mount Vernon is arguably the more crucial piece to the south site location as it sits on the proposed property. Reed has long been a proponent of the south location off Northside and Martin Luther King drives due to its proximity to two MARTA stations.

Reed did not say whether the city has identified private funds, such as additional dollars from Falcons owner Arthur Blank, that could help secure Mount Vernon. But he said he’s asked former mayor Ambassador Andrew Young to mediate talks between the church and state officials should they resume.

A spirited Reed also said he has long been a supporter of a new stadium despite public sentiment and has suffered political consequences for it, noting he’s “taken as many scars and hits and bruises as anybody in this stadium process.”

He said Tuesday the Falcons should support his efforts for the stadium to be built on the south location, but stopped short of calling them to fund any portion of the Mount Vernon deal.

“For two years my commitment to the Falcons organization has been unwavering,” he said. “…I believe in mutual respect.”

The mayor suggested the city has leverage in securing the south site, noting the $30 million stadium community benefits plan must be reached and approved by himself and the Atlanta City Council before any bonds will be issued for stadium construction.

The Atlanta Falcons quickly issued a statement applauding the deal the mayor struck on their behalf. However, last week the team announced it is conducting due diligence work on the north site, located off Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd.

“We commend the mayor, city officials and the congregation of Friendship Baptist Church for all of their hard work in reaching a tentative agreement for the acquisition of the church property,” read the statement. “This is certainly a positive development for the south site; however, other significant issues and requirements remain unresolved on that site.”

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