Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed getting close to making an offer to buy Friendship Baptist Church

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he is on the verge of making an offer to acquire Friendship Baptist Church to make room for a new Atlanta Falcons football stadium.

“My issue was to make sure the Congregational support was above two-thirds,” Reed said. “We are getting there.”

When asked about the timing, Reed said it will be in a matter of days.

“I want to move this forward,” Reed said, adding that the city would be presenting an offer to Friendship “definitely within the next 10 days.”

The Atlanta Falcons are anxiously waiting on the outcome of the city’s negotiations to buy Friendship as well as the culmination of negotiations that the Georgia World Congress Center is having with Mount Vernon Baptist Church, which is across the street from Friendship.

Mount Vernon supposedly has been waiting to see how the Friendship deal turns out before it continues its negotiations with GWCC officials. “We can’t talk about property acquisition,” Jennifer LeMaster, a GWCC spokeswoman wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, Lloyd Hawk, chairman of Friendship’s board of trustees, said the ball has been in the mayor’s court.

“We are still waiting to hear from the city,” Hawk said, adding that they have discussed actually dollar amounts for several weeks. “We would like to have it done this month for sure.”

Hawk said that the board will review the city’s offer for the 150-year-old church and then make a recommendation to the entire congregation so it can vote it up or down.

“I don’t want it be a close decision of the congregation, either way,” said Hawk, who said that a two-thirds majority — be it yes or no — would help reduce divisiveness within the congregation.

Both of the black churches need to be acquired for the new $1 billion stadium to be built on the site south of the existing Georgia Dome, which would be demolished once the new stadium is scheduled to open in 2017.

But the Atlanta Falcons have said that they are not going to force the black churches to leave. If the churches aren’t willing to sell voluntarily, the Falcons have a back-up site, known as the north site, a half-mile away along Northside Drive.

Either way, the Atlanta Falcons organization have said that decision needs to be made by the first of August because the architects need to know where the stadium will be located so they can begin to design the facility beyond the concept stage.

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