In September 2013, Friendship Baptist Church and Mount Vernon Baptist Church agreed to sell their land to the Atlanta Falcon's new stadium investor group. This deal was crucial to propel the new stadium's development plans, but it also echoed a deeper history of negotiation and migration among the area's churches.
The building of the Georgia Dome in 1987 and the Georgia World Congress Center a decade later on Northside Drive caused the eviction of 11 churches. Without much political muscle power for their relatively small size (the smallest of these congregation had eight members), these churches showed little resistance to the deal they'd been offered, and effectively had little option in selling their land for the gargantuan construction projects to go ahead.
By 2012, owners of the Atlanta Falcons Football team had made public their desire to place the new Falcons Stadium next to where the Georgia Dome currently stands. This plan was controversial, however, as the land the stadium was envisioned to be built on belonged to two important local churches - the Mount Vernon Baptist Church, and the Friendship Baptist Church. Historically the largest, as well as the richest black churches in and around the area, these two churches entered negotiations with the Falcons team ownership and the city of Atlanta backed up by voices of fierce resistance by members of their congregations. The debate was a sequel to a similar polemic that had emerged two decades earlier at the onset of the Georgia Dome construction plan. At that point, both churches withstood the pressures and were able to maintain their historic locations, firmly supported by the Vine City Housing Ministry, which both the Vernon and Friendship Baptist churches were core members of.
The Falcons Stadium negotiations in 2013, however, reversed the churches' earlier conviction not to sell. In September, a deal was reached between the churches, the Falcons team ownership, and the city of Atlanta: Mount Vernon Baptist Church and Friendship Baptist Church had agreed to sell their land for 14.5 million and 19.5 million dollars, respectively. While the decision to sell was justified by the leaders of both churches as "the right thing to do" (AJC 19 Sept, 2013), and economically sound, many church members did not hesitate to express their utmost contempt, disappointment, and frustration at seeing their centers of worship lose their centennial locations. The churches are planning to relocate in the same area, however, and are currently searching for new plots to rebuild their premises.
According to the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, the Mount Vernon and Friendship both hope to stay in the community. Friendship indicated that the location fits the congregation, which comes from all parts of the metro area. The newspaper interviewed Lloyd Hawk, chairman of Friendship Church's board of trustees, who indicated that the church only signed the deal to move because they could acquire land in the area. Mount Vernon representatives expressed a similar sentiment, as Pastor Rodney Turner said in an interview "ninety-eight years...we have been here and this is where we have anchored ourselves...this is where the help is needed." (AJC 19 Sept, 2013).
Leslie, K. & Tucket, T. Mt. Vernon approves deal to sell property for stadium. Atlanta Journal-Constitution (September 19, 2013)