Mayor Reed turns down Friendship Baptist Church’s offer for a mediator

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has nixed the idea of meeting with all the parties interested in acquiring Friendship Baptist Church to make way for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium.

The mayor also does not want to have a mediator try to find a middle ground between what the City of Atlanta has offered to buy the church and the property and what Friendship believes it needs to relocate and rebuild in the Vine City community.

“We got a response back from the mayor, and the mayor has said he doesn’t want to have a mediation,” said Lloyd Hawk, chairman of Friendship’s board of trustees, on Monday afternoon. “He’s not willing to sit down at the table with everyone.”

The city negotiations to buy Friendship have been underway, off-and-on, for several months. Last week, Reed gave an interview to WXIA-TV sharing details of the negotiations, which caught the church by surprise.

Hawk had wanted to get the negotiations back on track by getting all the parties — the city, the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center — to sit around the same table until an agreement had been reached. He told all the parties involved that he had wanted to present a proposal to his congregation on June 30.

“We though we could have everyone at the table and get it resolved,” Hawk said. “We are disappointed the mayor was not willing to do that.”

Now Hawk is not sure about what the next step will be.

“We are sitting still,” Hawk said. “We are not going to respond to anything unless it’s in writing.”

Hawk said the mayor communicated to Friendship through his chief operating officer, Duriya Farooqui, who had contacted the church’s attorney. The mayor, however, does want to continue negotiating directly with the church.

“We have not closed the door,” Hawk said. “And we are not closing the door.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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