Fort McPherson: Location, Locaton, Location

Location does matters. Why Fort McPherson? Because it is located between Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and downtown Atlanta, close to the Atlanta University Center, McPherson is flanked by two MARTA public transportation stations and offers excellent transit-oriented-development opportunities.

The United States Army will transfer the land to the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority (MILRA), Inc. later this year. The MILRA appointed by Governor Perdue in his final year as governor is a development authority created by the state solely for the purpose of managing this property transfer and development.
After lots of public debate, community input and professional planning the master plan was adopted by the MILRA board and approved by the U. S Department of Housing and Urban Development and the US Department of Army. It includes the development of a 127-acre employment district dedicated to research and innovation and 153 acres of open space. Three commercial buildings, previously used by the Army, offer more than 750,000 square feet of space available for occupancy as early as fall 2011. The remaining 314 acres will be available for private or joint development to public institutions and private developers. The project has yet to identify the developers or major tenants.

The redevelopment of Fort McPherson will increase the number of jobs available south of Interstate 20 and increase Atlanta and Fulton County’s tax base at a time when both suffer from declining property base. This project holds great promise to grow Georgia’s life science companies if the right state and local incentive package can be developed. The agreement between the Army, HUD and the MILRA includes a mixed-use plan with a continuum of supportive housing options for the homeless. The housing units would range from a second Hope House with 70 units, modeled after the very successful one next to City Hall, to housing set aside for single Veterans, to apartments for homeless families. In addition, the sum of $10 million was to be paid by the developer, to build 140 more units of housing, on land off the base.

This is a clear case of making lemons from lemonade. Though many city leaders bemoaned the loss of Fort McPherson at the time of the base closure announcement, its redevelopment could bring new vitality to a section of the city south of the I-20 that has been crying out for business investment and more jobs for decades. Located between the airport and downtown Atlanta, it should attract prime investors.
On November 10, 2005, the recommendation from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) to close Fort McPherson became law. The City of Atlanta worked closely with the Governor’s Office, the Office of Economic Adjustment at the Department of Defense, the City of East Point and Fulton County preparing for the closure. Then Mayor Shirley Franklin created the McPherson Planning Local Redevelopment Authority (McPherson Planning LRA) and asked Felker Ward, Jr. to chair the LRA and Atlanta Development Authority Executive Director Peggy McCormick to join him on the leadership team. In 2009 Governor Sonny Perdue signed an executive order establishing the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority (MILRA). Among the members who joined the MILRA board were Vincent Fort, John Eaves, then Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis and Felker Ward, Jr. was selected as chairman.
If location matters, then Fort McPherson ought to be at the top of public and private investment list.
Fort McPherson offers an opportunity for the state to invest in job growth in the wake of the state’s rising unemployment.

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