Tyler Perry dubbed “Coltrane” in sensitive talks that highlight discrepancies in Fort McPherson deal

By David Pendered

Tyler Perry’s proposal to buy most of Fort McPherson went by the code name “Coltrane” for at least a month before a tentative deal was announced last week.

Tyler Perry contributed $2,500 to Mayor Kasim Reed.

Tyler Perry’s proposal to buy Fort McPherson had the code name “Coltrane.”

“Coltrane” has clear expectations for the former base – including that “the wall” not be torn down, despite persistent requests from residents that the security wall be removed, according to minutes of meetings with the fort’s concerned neighbors.

There’s a discrepancy over the amount of land to be included in the deal. Either 449 acres is involved in the tentative deal, or 474 acres are involved. Both amounts have been cited in public.

These issues are among those emerging from minutes of meetings of the Community Engagement Subcommittee. This subcommittee is part of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, which is a state authority charged with overseeing the fort’s conversion to civilian use.

The list of items that were discussed in the committee meetings, but not shared with the general public, is extensive. They are among the issues that would seem to need resolution before the deal can close by the target date of Oct. 15.

Among the issues:

  • “Coltrane” may decide to use historic buildings as sound stages, or they may be demolished.
  • There is no, “mandate for a specific amount of green space in the plans,” according to the minutes.
  • A planned police and fire academy won’t be built at Fort McPherson.
  • The state will wait or defer to “Coltrane” regarding any of its plans for the site. Gov. Nathan Deal and the Legislature have set aside $28 million in bonds to buy and renovate structures on the property.
  • An existing plan to house the homeless on the fort will be implemented, though in recent weeks there has been discussion of providing the housing at one or more locations in the city that are yet to be determined.
Click on the image to see a larger version of minutes that describe Tyler Perry's plan for a security wall and the size of the transaction being discussed. Credit: MILRA's CES

Click on the image to see a larger version of minutes that describe Tyler Perry’s plan for a security wall and the size of the transaction being discussed. Credit: MILRA’s CES

The security fence that surrounds Fort McPherson is a sore spot among some neighbors. After years of discussion, there has not been any agreement over what will become of this structure.

Perry indicated at the Aug. 8 MILRA meeting that he’s willing to accommodate at least some of the neighbors’ wishes that the fence be taken down. The minutes of the meetings indicate otherwise:

  • “The ‘Coltrane’ group wants the wall to remain up which is necessary for the security of their operation.
  • “There is one gate for access now. More access points from Lee Street and/or Campbellton [Road] are pending and cannot be discussed at this point in the negotiation.”

This treasure trove of information, and more, is contained in minutes of the subcommittee’s June 25 meeting.

That was the first event after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that Tyler Perry had expressed interest in buying a major portion of the shuttered Fort McPherson and building a studio on the site.

The amount of acreage being discussed appears to be fluid.

For starters, the fort generally is thought to consist of 488 acres. That’s the size that’s been mentioned for years.

However, the amount of land under consideration is 449 acres, according to minutes of the subcommittee meeting. Evidently that’s because the Veterans Administration is not part of the calculations in the planned sale to Perry.

According to other records, a total of 474 acres are under discussion. This is the figure cited in terms of a memorandum of understanding with Perry that MILRA announced Aug. 8.

According to the announced terms, Perry intends to purchase 330 acres and MILRA will retain 144 acres. MILRA is expected to convey its share to Atlanta, the state or developers.

Incidentally, MILRA is a state authority that is not affiliated with the City of Atlanta.

MILRA was formed to handle the conversion Fort McPherson’s conversion to civilian use following Congress’s decision in 2005 to close the base as part of a nationwide realignment of military installations.

Perry’s plan now is on a fast track for presentation to the Army. The Army owns the base and has the final say over whether to turn over the property

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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