Historic northwest Atlanta church gets last-minute reprieve - CBS46 News

Historic northwest Atlanta church gets last-minute reprieve from eviction

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Higher Ground Empowerment Center is a ray of hope in northwest Atlanta's Vine City, a neighborhood battered by a brutal economy.

Pastor Dexter Johnson said the church not only runs tutoring programs, it gives out food and clothes to the needy in a community blighted by boarded up homes. But the historic church that has helped so many since 1903 now could use a hand from a higher power.

The church took out a big loan to cover damage from a tornado that blasted downtown Atlanta in 2008. Higher Ground's membership fell over the years, leaving it with less money to make payments. The church tried to refinance with BB&T, but the bank opened up foreclosure proceedings and threatened to evict the church in seven days if it did not come up with the money fast.

Johnson refused to consider what would happen if the bank carried out its threat.

"I believe our church is going to be here because it is a 108-year-old church," Johnson said. "We're not looking for a free ride."

The church and the bank were scheduled to attend a hearing Thursday afternoon. Johnson called Occupy Atlanta on Wednesday and asked for help. Protestors moved in Thursday morning. Then, the church was the beneficiary of a minor miracle. BB&T later in the day, called off and agreed to negotiate with the bank.

But David R. White, the bank's vice president of communication, disputed some of the church's statements. White said BB&T was never going to foreclose on the property, because the church is leasing and doesn't have a mortgage. White also said lenders have been working to resolve the problem since 2009.

But both the bank and the church expect a resolution by early next week.

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