By David Pendered
Fort McPherson’s long waltz toward redevelopment for civilian use may take its pause Tuesday, if the fort’s state oversight authority votes to enter negotiations with a firm to retool the site.
The authority may vote to sign a deal with a joint venture that includes Cousins Properties. That said, the Cousins team got the nod from a review committee earlier this month but the state authority balked, deferring action until at least Tuesday in order to review written responses from the Cousins team and its rival joint venture, which includes Atlanta-based Carter.
One clear winner in the redevelopment process that started in 2005 is a team of Georgia Tech students, community activists and Georgia Stand-Up. This joint venture completed its own Fort McPherson Community Action Plan that has won two awards – one this month from the American Planning Association and one last autumn from APA’s Georgia chapter.
One thing that makes this report unusual is that results from a community participatory process that involved a historically African American neighborhood, said Deborah Scott, executive director of Georgia Stand-Up.
For 22 months, with funding in part from the Ford Foundation, students and residents worked on the plan under the guidance of Michael Dobbins, a Tech professor of practice and former Atlanta planning commissioner.
“The ‘Ah ha moment’ was that these were community folks who came up with these solutions,” Scott said. “The wonderful thing is that most of these folks are women. They are professionals or semi-professionals, may have husbands who are veterans, and they never thought they would become community activists.
“Georgia Tech students were the midwives, and the community was the one who came up with the idea and gave birth to it,” Scott said.
Dobbins said he suspects APA made the award as part of the growing recognition nationally of community-based plans. APA did not respond Monday to a request for reasons the Tech plan was chosen or provide a list of other nominees.
“The movement within the profession is toward accelerating the ways in which the locally affected communities can directly impact, in a positive way, the big-time activities that are proposed in their midst,” Dobbins said.
The plan focused on seven areas:
- An interim plan for the fort;
- Jobs and economic development;
- Land use, zoning and urban development;
- Parks and environment;
- Education, history and culture;
- Public health and public safety;
- Community benefits agreement recommendations.
Scott said another outcome of the study was the formation of a community organization that is continuing to stay engaged in the redevelopment of the fort – the McPherson Action Community Coalition, or MACC.
Meanwhile, the state authority that’s overseeing the fort’s conversion to civilian use is slated to consider development proposals from two joint ventures, according to Jack Sprott, executive director of the McPherson Local Implementing Redevelopment Authority.
The joint venture that got the nod from the authority’s review committee is the same group chosen in November by the state Department of Transportation to build the bus/rail/transit station, and environs, that is to transform Downtown Atlanta into a vibrant urban core. It consists of Cleveland-based Forest City, with local partners Cousins Properties and Integral Group.
The other joint venture is comprised of two Atlanta-based firms, Carter and H.J. Russell & Co.
Sprott said the authority’s vote would be to authorize negotiations with one of the joint ventures. There is no guarantee that the negotiations will result in an actual plan to redevelop the fort, although that outcome is not expected, Sprott said.
The fort measures about 488 acres and the pending contract is for a 113-acre node of residential and commercial uses.