Mayor Kasim Reed today announced that the city has reached a $19.5 million agreement to purchase Friendship Baptist Church. It's one of two churches that would need to be relocated to build the new stadium on the preferred south site along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
The Atlanta Falcons, who authorized Reed to negotiate with the church based upon predefined terms, have agreed to finance the costs so that no public money would be used. The mayor, noting that the August 1 deadline for the stadium has already passed, insisted that more time is now needed to let the process properly play out.
"We believe that is a fair agreement on both sides of the transaction," Reed says. "[Friendship Baptist Church] still has to ratify that agreement. I believe it is reasonable to take the time to allow the congregation to digest what is a very complex transaction."
Lloyd Hawk, Friendship Baptist Church's chairman of the board of trustees, said he felt the decision was "right for the church," but that the agreement still needs to be discussed and approved by the congregation. While he acknowledged Friendship's members still have varying opinions "all over the entire spectrum," he felt the the current deal in place was now worth bringing back to church's approximately 400 parishioners.
"We understand the benefit of the stadium at the south location for the community," Hawk says. "What we looked at was what can we do for the benefit of the church and for the benefit of the community."
Reed also made a personal plea to Georgia World Congress Center Authority officials to renew their negotiating efforts with Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. If the state agency was willing, Reed said former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young was open to serving as an intermediary between both sides. He even promised that he'd sit down with the church's pastor in the coming weeks.
The mayor adamantly spoke with resolve about the stadium throughout his press conference. He was unflinching in his words and left few comments open for interpretation. He also repeatedly reminded others that he and his allies - namely Councilmembers C.T. Martin, H. Lamar Willis, Aaron Watson, and Michael Julian Bond - have overcome great odds to make the new stadium a reality.
"I took significant political risks to support this stadium," Reed says. "I have been unwavering in my support to this stadium. I didn't do it so that whatever happens just happens. I have a vision for this city and what it should look and feel like; and where it's going in 10 and 20 and 30 years. I didn't do this for any short term reasoning and I think the south site is that right long-term reason."
But his tone sounded defensive at times as he called the news reports and public discussions surrounding the south site and church negotiations "intense and negative," clarified intentions about making the negotiations public, and even casually reminded people the city could've used eminent domain but chose not to do so.
It's almost as if he felt the need to prove that every decision he's made, including the highly scrutinized and occasionally criticized ones, was the ultimately the best possible choice.
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