Atlanta's Oldest Black Church Wants $24.5M to Make Way for New Falcons Stadium

(Photo: Screengrab/WXIA-TV Atlanta, Ga.)Lloyd Hawk, a church leader at Friendship Baptist Church, a 150-year-old historic black church in Atlanta, Ga., speaking to WXIA-TV about the controversial decision they and members of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church will be making if they decide to relocate to make way for the new 616 billion Falcons football stadium in Atlanta, Ga., March 10, 2013.

Atlanta's oldest black church, Friendship Baptist, is locked in a price war with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed after he told them he could not afford the church's $24.5 million asking price to relocate their church for the development of a new $1 billion football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

"We can't afford that, so we sent back an offer of 15.5 million dollars," Reed told 11Alive News.

He explained that the city had initially offered the church $13.5 million to give up the historic property but the church responded with an asking price double that offer.

According to the report, Friendship Baptist Church officials have declined to discuss the negotiations but noted their lawyers were supposed to meet with City of Atlanta officials on Thursday to continue the negotiations.

Reed explained that he was "60-70 percent confident" that the matter would be settled in the next two to three weeks. Negotiations are also underway to acquire the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church across the street from Friendship Baptist.

The city wants the Friendship Baptist Church property to route traffic around the new stadium. If officials don't arrive at an agreement by August, the project will automatically move to the less desirous north side of the stadium.

Mayor Reed noted that he prefers the south side, where First Baptist resides, for long-term growth prospects of the city, and expressed confidence that the stadium will end up there.

"It's a process I think," Reed said of the negotiations in the 11Alive news report. "I think I know how the movie ends, but you still have to go through it and be respectful during the process."

In an earlier NBC report, Juanita Jones Abernathy, widow of Ralph Abernathy, noted that her church should not relocate from its current site because of its historic significance and sacredness. Slaves were shipped to the church in a boxcar during the Civil War and historically black colleges Spelman and Morehouse once held classes in the basement.

"The church is a landmark in the community and it needs to remain there as a landmark," Abernathy told NBC.

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