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Thursday, June 27, 2013

City Hall considers relocating MLK Jr. Drive instead of paying church for stadium property

Negotiations between City Hall and Friendship Baptist Church over the purchase of its property have picked up in recent weeks. But with talks stalling, the city has pulled out another card in its quest to buy the 3-acre plot for the new Falcons stadium: relocate Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Mayor Kasim Reed said last Thursday the city's final offer for the stadium property stands at $15.5 million - $10 million less than what the historic 151-year-old church is hoping to receive.

The hard-line stance continued this week as Reed turned down the church's request for mediation. CL's Rodney Carmichael's latest column delves into that matter, saying that:

If Reed and Blank are as committed as they claim to be about uplifting the community surrounding the new stadium, this deal with Friendship is the real litmus test. While Hawk says that the church is 100 percent committed to striking a deal with the city - provided that the congregation's needs are met - Reed seems less than amiable in recent days.

But as seen in chief operating officer Duriya Farooqui's recent memo to Reed, the city doesn't look like it'll back down:

The negotiation with Friendship church has not yielded a resolution and no further delays can be absorbed. The offer made through the City has increased from $10 Million to $15.5 Million. The asking price by Friendship Church has meanwhile moved in a direction away from an initial ask of $20 Million to a recent proposal as high as $24.5 Million. This leaves the gap between the two offers substantially the same since initial offers and no closer to a resolution within the time frame [that] a location and orientation decision is needed.

[...]

The City and the Falcons are now re-evaluating orientation options on the south site that would leave Friendship Church intact. While a move to the North site accomplishes the same objective, the south site feasibility has improved on other dimensions and it continues to be a location that the Falcons and the City support. The attached conceptual plans indicate options under which Friendship Church can remain intact.

According to conceptual renderings, the church and the stadium would sit nearly on top of one another. It's hard to imagine that solution being ideal for churchgoers, who would likely battle hordes of Falcons fans through traffic on the way to Sunday services during the fall and winter.

For now, the clock continues to tick toward the August 1 deadline set by the Atlanta Falcons. That's when team officials say they'll need to know whether the South site will work for the new $1 billion athletic facility. So it'll be interesting to see what happens with the city, who seems hell-bent on making the South site work for the new stadium in some way, shape, or form.

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