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Friendship Baptist Church says it may have deal to sell to Falcons by Aug. 1

By Maria Saporta

Friendship Baptist Church is moving forward with talks to sell its property to make way for a new Atlanta Falcons football stadium on the site south of the Georgia Dome.

Those talks are proceeding despite the current shift by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Atlanta Falcons to seriously reconsider the north site about a half mile away.

“We are still in talks,” said Lloyd Hawk, chairman of Friendship’s board of trustees.. “We are not doing anything to hinder the process, and we are working towards a solution with the Falcons and the city.”

The Atlanta Falcons had set an Aug. 1 deadline to determine the feasibility of building on the south site. That included the need to acquire two historically-black churches — Friendship and Mount Vernon Baptist Church.

But negotiations with both churches have either dragged on or stalled.

So the GWCCA and the Falcons have begun focusing their efforts on the north site and are beginning to do “due diligence” on the physical and environmental conditions of the property at the corner of Northside Drive and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard.

Leaders of Friendship Baptist Church, however, believe they could reach a tentative deal with the Atlanta Falcons and the City of Atlanta by the Aug. 1 deadline.

“We have allowed the Falcons’ stadium development engineers to come on site to do their soil tests and geotechnical work,” Hawk said. “They are out there right now.”

Hawk said that church leaders understand the community benefits of building the new $1 billion retractable roof stadium south of the Georgia Dome. That site is sandwiched between two MARTA stations while the north site is about a half-mile away from a MARTA station.

Whether a deal could be reached in a week, Hawk said that would depend on “how quickly the Falcons will have an acceptable proposal in our hands.”

The two governing boards of Friendship Baptist Church — the board of trustees and the board of deacons — conceivably could review and vote on an offer to sell the church within the next seven days.

But Hawk added that the earliest that the entire congregation likely would be able to vote would be on Sunday, Aug. 4.

The Atlanta City Council approved the financial plan for the new Falcons stadium in March. At the time, it seemed as though Aug 1 would provide ample time for agreements to be reached with both churches.

Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons, said Wednesday afternoon that the Aug. 1 deadline had been set to get the development team the flexibility to build the stadium by March 2017. Have the north site as an option provides that flexibility.

“We have always thought that the north site was a good site,” McKay said, adding that the due diligence review of the north site is “just to keep the timeline going.”

McKay did acknowledge that the north site has its own set of challenges.

“A lot has been done already,” McKay said. “We have taken a pretty deep look on the north with the power line issue and the marshalling yard issue. There are transmission lines that would have to be moved.”

McKay also said that the north site also has some contaminated soil, so there would have to be some soil remediation on the property.

If the Falcons are able to strike a deal with Friendship, there’s one train of thought that it would help bring Mount Vernon and GWCCA back to the negotiating table. According to people close to Mount Vernon, the church wants to be sure it is treated fairly. So it is closely watching what kind of deal Friendship might strike with the Falcons to see what it should ask for.

The GWCCA, according to insiders, is under more restrictive state guidelines in what it can offer when it seeks to buy real estate.

Maria Saporta

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.



  1. Harvey Dent July 25, 2013 1:18 pm

    Ruh Roh, watch Friendship’s offer drop like a rock now.Report

  2. EricaMorrisLong July 25, 2013 9:33 pm

    Friendship’s counter offer is probably still a bargain when compared to the significant environmental clean-up costs on the north site.  Atlantans who have been here for a while remember the Georgia Power plant in the area and how it contaminated the soil and water table there.Report

    1. moliere July 26, 2013 11:30 am

      Nope. It should be on principle. Let Friendship accept Atlanta’s current deal by August 1 or the city should move on. Friendship either needs to accept this current deal or have to answer tough questions on why they blew their only shot for a new worship center and that side of town’s only shot for real economic revitalization. The city shouldn’t pay $25 million for patch of real estate that is worth $2 million just because that is what the folks who own it say that it is worth, and also to assuage the hurt feelings of people who are upset that all this black history is uprooted to build a stadium and to address “they would never tear down historic WHITE churches to build a stadium” nonsense (when in reality white churches will relocate on the drop of a hat) that is going around. If Friendship wants to hold onto their history and pander to notions of black pride that are totally incongruent with the longtime economic reality of that area, then let them do it and allow the folks who are actually interested in progress to move on. Let them join the Morris Brown College administrators in the “tradition and history over progress” crowd. And in 10 years when these same folks are complaining about how the powers that be abandoned them and sold them out to the racist white Republican suburban folks and corporate interests (as always happens in cases like this) please remember WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED and do what Friendship Baptist refuses to do and move on. 
      Honestly, Ms. Morris, at some point there needs to be a line drawn where we hold our black leadership accountable for the decisions that they make. Being willing to block a $1 billion development project in an economically depressed mostly black part of town and letting that investment and its benefit go to a whiter, more affluent part of town because a few self-appointed guardians of black history don’t want to let go of “the site where Morehouse and Spelman were founded in the basement” unless they are paid through the nose to assuage their egos is nonsense. So let these folks hold onto their nonsense and the city move on. By the way: Spelman and Morehouse left the basement and went on to bigger and better things. It is a pity that Friendship Baptist refuses to do the same, and is standing in the way if Vine City doing the same also.Report

      1. jamalA July 29, 2013 10:52 pm

        moliere EricaMorrisLong This is the most ridiculous reply I’ve witnessed in a while the price is 1.5x (the current market rate)=24mil, but you’re anther one who’s so dazzled by a billion dollar play toy that you believe the city and those in the vicinity should roll-over and acquiesce. 100-200mil in voodoo financing uncounted for, previous massive flooding in Vine City from poor sewage planning by GWCC. Plus the fact everyone knew this was coming for years and still can’t get it done in a cooperative fashion, it’s just sad. Btw , no stadium in this city or most cities has lead to any development in the surrounding residential neighborhood, Casteberry Hill grew on its own..e.gReport

    2. jamalA July 29, 2013 10:56 pm

      EricaMorrisLong It’s why the talk of going North is just a game plans would of already been completed yrs ago, to have two viable options and Maynard Jackson would of never pulled the publicity stunt that Kasim Reed did in negotiations  with the church.Report

  3. Chris July 30, 2013 11:16 am

    All this talk of the north site as an “alternative” are amusing, when you consider the original study and proposal and parking/traffic plan documents ONLY showed the north site. The south site was a result of the city jumping in and pushing for it. Blank and the Falcons did NOT come up with the idea of displacing those churches–they are just going along with what the Atlanta govt wanted. Kind of like the city leaders suddenly appearing in the front row of Olympic site selection meetings after Billy Payne and co. spent years in the wilderness making the Olympic bid happen. Welcome to the party, city leaders…Report


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