Mount Vernon congregation hears from mayor in closed meeting

Staff writer Tim Tucker contributed to this article.

Mayor Kasim Reed, with help from former Mayor Andrew Young, met with the congregation of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, just days after negotiations to buy the facility for a new football stadium broke down.

Emerging after the gathering, Young said the tone of the meeting was good and that the church feels “like they need to have the time to do their own thinking, make their own decisions, and discuss all the options that are available.”

Reed left the meeting before its conclusion and did not speak to the media.

The meeting came after months of negotiations with the leaders of Mount Vernon and nearby Friendship Baptist Church to sell their properties. The churches sit on property that backers of a new stadium want for a “south site,” one of two locations being considered for the facility.

The south site, which is near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and Northside drives, is preferred because it is close to two MARTA stations and could connect to a proposed multi-modal station for downtown. The other site is a little more than a half mile north of the Georgia Dome, near the intersection of Northside and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard.

The city, which has negotiated with Friendship, has offered the church $19.5 million — to be paid by the Atlanta Falcons — for its property.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which has handled talks with Mount Vernon, broke off negotiations earlier this month after the church turned down its offer of $6.2 million, which would be paid by the GWCCA, a state agency. Church leaders, who had asked for $20.375 million, said the offer was too low. The authority said it offered the appraised value of the property and that it was legally prohibited from offering more.

The Falcons on July 30 declared the south site “not feasible” because the needed properties hadn’t been acquired, and began a feasibility study of the north site.

Details of the negotiations with Mount Vernon, obtained through the Open Records Act, revealed what went into the church’s thinking: money needed to cover all costs associated with relocation, including acquiring land and building a new home in the Vine City area. The church also said its calculations included $2.73 million to compensate the church for losing the next 25 years worth of revenue from special-events parking on its property.

Young said Tuesday’s meeting with the church centered on “an information-sharing session about some of the live options that they should consider.”

“The mayor made a commitment that he would continue working with them, that he was committed to fulfilling this project and making sure that the city continued its growth and development,” Young said.