By David Pendered
The plan to sell most of Fort McPherson to filmmaker Tyler Perry has a long way to go, much of it behind closed doors, before the deal can close.
“We have a lot of details to get this to home base,” said Felker Ward, who chairs the state authority handling the deal.
The state authority has voted against a motion to update its plans for the fort’s civilian use and to keep the public involved in the process. Ward said these matters already are the authority’s job and the plan updates will be handled by Rick Padgett, who is a seasoned development consultant the authority hired Aug. 7 to help close the deal with the Army by Oct. 15.
The matters to be concluded to the Army’s satisfaction seem to include some if not more than the following:
- An economic development conveyance document that establishes how Perry’s studio satisfies requirements that the federal property will be converted to a use that creates jobs;
- An update of an existing environmental impact statement in order to reflect the property’s conversion to a film studio, rather than to a bio-science research center or office use;
- An update of the plan to house the homeless, as required by the federal McKinney Act, because the proposed studio deal could affect a plan previously approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development after years of review.
The prospect of Tyler Perry building 16 or 17 studios on 330 acres of the 488-acre fort, and triggering more than $1 billion in economic impact, has somewhat overwhelmed this list and other work that needs to be done.
Ward reminded the audience of these details after Perry had left the Aug. 8 meeting at which the tentative deal was announced:
- “We have a memorandum of understanding and an MOU is just that – an unbinding memorandum that will be followed by a purchase and sale agreement, which will be underway immediately, and hopefully have it done in a couple of weeks. And that will be the document that will control, and come back to the board before the signing of the agreement.”
In hiring Padgett, the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority has retained a deep well of experience. Padgett was executing complicated ventures involving the government and private sector in an era before they were known as public private partnerships.
Padgett oversaw Atlanta’s development arm during preparations for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Previously, Padgett oversaw $1.1 billion of financing for the Portman Companies.
Now he works with Walter Huntley, who ran Atlanta’s development arm under then Mayor Andrew Young after serving as chief of staff to then Mayor Maynard Jackson from 1974 to 1982, according to the company’s website.
According to Ward, who spoke before the authority’s board voted Aug. 8 to reject the motion by member Ayesha Khanna for a renewed commitment to planning and community engagement:
- “Everyone understands we have to ramp up our implementing plan. Yesterday we reengaged [Padgett] to move forward with the kinds of things you’re talking about. Rest assured, it’s not new to us. We understand that.”
Ward also focused intently on announcing the authority intends to take action to hire a new executive director at its Aug. 25 meeting. Jack Sprott, the founding executive director, intends to retire, or has retired, and return home to Charleston, S.C.