With a deadline just over a week away to buy two churches on the preferred site of the new Atlanta Falcons stadium, attention appears to be shifting to Plan B.
A Georgia World Congress Center Authority committee will vote Wednesday on whether to ask the state to give the Falcons permission to begin “due diligence work” on an alternative site — a half mile north of the Georgia Dome — to determine if it is suitable for the $1 billion stadium.
The development comes as an Aug. 1 deadline looms for reaching a deal with Mount Vernon Baptist and Friendship Baptist churches to build on the preferred site just south of the Dome. But the Falcons said Tuesday the development does not mean negotiations with the churches have been abandoned.
“I would characterize this move as being one of prudence,” said Kim Shreckengost, executive vice president of AMB Group, the Falcons’ parent company. “We felt it was in our best interests and consistent with the agreement with the (GWCCA) to go ahead and start looking at the north site.”
The Falcons originally favored the north site, near the intersection of Northside Drive and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard. But the state and city preferred the south location near Northside and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and the Falcons consented.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has led the talks with Friendship, and the GWCCA, a state agency, has negotiated with Mount Vernon. At one point, Reed said Friendship had been offered $15.5 million and wanted $24.5 million.
“We and the mayor have said all along that we’re not going to push the churches off the site,” Shreckengost said Tuesday. “If they don’t feel like this is in their best interests, they should not sell their property, and we are happy to go to the north site.”
The 19-acre north site is owned by the GWCCA.
Lloyd Hawk, chairman of Friendship Baptist’s board of trustees, said he was aware of the state’s plan to evaluate the north site. He said negotiations between Friendship and the city are ongoing.
“I heard there are problems with Mount Vernon and that they have caused the state to look at the north site,” Hawk said.
Calls to Mount Vernon were not immediately returned.
Atlanta City Council member Ivory Lee Young Jr., whose district will be affected by the new stadium, said building on the north site would be a mistake.
“The northern option … is simply an inferior choice,” Young said, adding that he believes the area would face considerable access and traffic challenges.
Young said he’d respect any decision the churches make, but urged them to come to agreements.
“The city of Atlanta and our churches really need to come together and do what’s in the best interest of Atlanta,” Young said.
Reed’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Staff writer Leon Stafford contributed to this article.