Atlanta taxpayers asked to spend $510,000 on new road at Fort Mac because of Tyler Perry’s roadblocks

By Maria Saporta

The plot continues to thicken in the controversial Fort McPherson-Tyler Perry Studios land deal.

Now the City of Atlanta is proposing to spend up to $510,000 to build a new road on the land because Tyler Perry Studios will be closing all public access to the existing major streets that are part of the 330 acres it is buying.

That means that the City of Atlanta will have to build a new road that parallels the existing Walker Street so it will be able to access the property that will be used by the Veterans Administration, the Associated Credit Union and the federally-mandated services for the homeless.

A resolution has been prepared to go before the board of Invest Atlanta to spend up to $510,000 in the Campbellton Road Tax Allocation District fund to pay for the new city road on the Fort McPherson property.

Ft Mac new road

New road identified by red line in Invest Atlanta board documents (Invest Atlanta)

Invest Atlanta is expected to vote on the new road at its next scheduled meeting on July 16. A meeting scheduled for June 18 has been canceled.

Brian Hooker, executive director of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority (MILRA), has said he believes the deal with filmmaker Tyler Perry will close by the end of June – before Invest Atlanta has been able to vote on public-funding for a new road.

According to the budget included in Invest Atlanta’s board documents, MILRA is expected to cover $100,000 of the new road’s $610,000 cost.

Ft Mac new road

Fort McPherson’s budget for new road as presented to Invest Atlanta

Matthew Garbett, a citizen activist who lives in Southwest Atlanta about two miles from Fort McPherson, said the deal should be put on hold until the public has had a chance to weigh in on having to pay for a new road.

“If Brian Hooker and MILRA are serious about not letting even veterans use the existing roads on Fort McPherson, then any new road that city taxpayers will have to build should be approved by Invest Atlanta and the City Council before the deal closes so the public can have some input,” Garbett said. “Otherwise, it will essentially become a blackmail scenario where the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for a $600,000 road that may be unnecessary.”

Thanks to the strong backing of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Tyler Perry has an attractive deal to buy 330 acres of land at the now closed Fort McPherson for $30 million – less than $100,000 an acre.

construction schedule

Construction schedule for the new road – assuming Tyler Perry Studios deal goes through

MILRA will pay the Army a total of $26 million for the entire property (paid in installments). Perry is supposed to present $20 million on the day of closing, which will go toward MILRA’s first installment to the U.S. Army as well as cover its operating expenses.

If and when the deal goes through, MILRA will end up with about 144 acres – much of which will have limited accessibility because Perry insisted on owning the major roads on the 488-acre base.

The Veterans Administration, the Credit Union and homeless providers are expected to end up with nearly 14 acres.

It is not yet clear whether MILRA and/or the City of Atlanta will have to build more roads to make other parts of its property accessible for redevelopment.

Tyler Perry Felker Ward Kasim Reed

Tyler Perry stands next to MILRA Chairman Felker Ward and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at McPherson board meeting

The Tyler Perry-Fort Mac deal almost fell apart last fall when Perry went to MILRA with a set of new demands – including shifting his property line so that it would include the major roadways on the property. That ended up giving Perry the ability to turn his property into a fort within a fort by not allowing any public access through the heart of the entire site.

Initially, the MILRA board refused to give Perry the right-of-way to major roads going through Fort McPherson. It was at that moment that Perry threatened to walk away from the deal.

Mayor Reed then pressured MILRA’s leadership to salvage the Perry deal by giving the filmmaker what he wanted.

Reed also got Gov. Nathan Deal to remove Ayesha Khanna, the one board member who had voted earlier in the year against a draft agreement with Tyler Perry Studios, from the MILRA board. A letter from the governor came only two hours’ before a specially-called meeting to vote on the revised deal was being held.

Khanna was replaced by two people close to the mayor. The vote for the new Tyler Perry deal – including turning over the major roads to him and making them off limits to the public – was unanimous.

But those details were not disclosed to the public at the time.

The implications of the deal have just now come to light with the proposed resolution now before Invest Atlanta. One paragraph in the resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, Tyler Perry Studios desires land that includes key right-of-way (Walker Avenue and Dietz Avenue) needed by the Atlanta Veteran Affairs Medical Center (“Atlanta VAMC”) to access some of its existing facilities; and….

After several more paragraphs, the resolution concludes with the reconmmendation to spend an amount not to exceed $510,000 to “fund the construction of a new road to provide vehicular access to the Atlanta Veteran Affairs Medical Center and campus facilities.”

Fort Mac site plan

A site plan of how the 488 acres at Fort McPherson will be divided – this was based on a map provided by MILRA that had lines so faint that they were hard to follow (Note by Maria Saporta)

Although the resolution does not mention homeless services, people close to the project said the road is also needed to meet that federal requirement.

But they also added that the new road would not have been necessary if Perry had been willing to provide an easement to allow public use of Walker Street – even for just a couple of blocks.

“It’s a tragedy that one-fifth of the available funds in the Campbelltown Road TAD are being used to duplicate a road lost in the Ft. MacPherson deal,” Garbett said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if it the funds were used as they were intended – to improve the community – such as acquiring park land to replace the green space being lost?”

Garbett also questioned whether this would be considered a proper use of TAD funds, which are supposed to go towards improving an area’s quality of life and enhancing a community – not replicating an existing road.

Fort McPherson is a real estate gem that is strategically-located between downtown Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. It sits between two MARTA stations. It, has more than 200 acres of green space – much it that was used as a golf course during its days as an Army base.

It was considered one of the most historic and beautiful Army bases in the country with its rolling hills, mature trees, a parade ground, extravagant general’s quarters, officer’s row and nearly every amenity one could imagine in a self-sustaining city – a movie theatre, a bowling alley, a post office, stores, tennis courts and basketball courts, a hospital, various residential communities and numerous office facilities. It even had an elegant clubhouse for fancy events.

If and when MILRA closes the deal with Tyler Perry, he will own the most valuable parcels on the site – both in quantity and quality. If Perry decides to sell off any of the land, MILRA will have a first option to buy his property.

But according to Hooker, the contract states that MILRA will have to pay a full market price for the property rather than buy it back for the discounted deal that is being offered to Perry.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

23 replies
  1. ChuckMiller2 says:

    Another shoe drops!  When are enough people going to become incensed about this deal to stop it. It is so all in Perry’s favor with nothing for the paying taxpayers who built it.  I assume this means there would be no access to the historic areas like Staff Row even with this new road. The deal sucks and has ever since Reed first announced it.Report

    Reply
  2. JWK says:

    What does it take to stop a bad deal that will continue to get worse. How long will this Administration get to circumvent the democratic process and good governance or are they trying to say that this detail just came up?Report

    Reply
  3. La1234 says:

    I agree with Chuck and JWK. This deal has stunk from the beginning. Tyler is getting a sweet heart deal and we all know it. It’s not like he is the only studio in town. Atlanta has attracted many new sound stages. Such a historic property should have a better use than that proposed.Report

    Reply
  4. Houndmother says:

    If access from other road to Tyler Perry’s property is being cut off due to his business, I assume at his choice, then Tyler Perry can pay for a half million dollar road to be put in.  Tyler Perry has plenty of money, and he can name it Tyler Perry Parkway.  🙂Report

    Reply
  5. David Terry says:

    The current Tyler Perry Studios near Greenbriar are closed to the public. Fort Mac will become Fort Perry. Walls and blocked roads will keep the public far away from the production facilities. Fort Mac should become another Ponce City Market or Atlantic Station. Our mayor has given East Point and south Atlanta’s best opportunity for development to a person whose quest for privacy resembles that of Howard Hughes.Report

    Reply
  6. Capitol View resident says:

    As a local resident who had high hopes for this the Fort Mac redevelopment to bring a services, jobs, a supermarket and other stores (beyond another Family Dollar) to our neighborhood, I am completely discouraged by all parties involved in this deal. Reed and Perry have no interest in developing this under-served area. And now we have to foot the bill for a street that few people will even use.Report

    Reply
  7. PJT says:

    It would be nice if the tax payers who’s taxes supported Fort Mac for close to 100 years could have a referendum “Say-So” in this matter.  I think the will of the people would have a definitive response to the whole deal ….. transparency is hard to come by between politics and friends.  Still missing the boat by not taking the beautiful info-structure of Fort Mac and making it a unique and impressive mixed-use development.  If developed properly, it could become a crown jewel of the South and possibly the country.  What a great way to begin a positively contagious infrastructure that would blossom in that area and provide more to the Atlanta economy than Tyler Perry’s Studios ever will.  Let me get this straight ….. Perry is buying the property for a “song & dance”, getting the tax payer to pay for his private road, whatever tax incentives the State of Georgia and/or Atlanta is providing him for building his studios on the property he already is getting for a “song & dance” and whatever other potentially financial laden deals have been made between the buyer and sellers …. I think I see the picture fairly clearly now……  PJTReport

    Reply
  8. Jeffrey Landers says:

    Are you sure this is for a TP project? I saw a camera crew for CBS 46 that walked the area and they showed it was an access point for the VA Clinic located at Ft. Mac.Report

    Reply
  9. SaportaReport says:

    Because Tyler Perry Studios will be closing all public access to the existing major streets that are part of the 330 acres it is buying… the City of Atlanta will have to build a new road that parallels the existing Walker Street so it will be able to access the property that will be used by the Veterans Administration, the Associated Credit Union and the federally-mandated services for the homeless.Report

    Reply
  10. Chris Wardrep says:

    You’d think a city would know better than to pay exactions for an owner/developer, especially as the seller! To be fair, potential buyers with TP’s resources weren’t beating down the door to own this property.Report

    Reply
  11. Wayne Reimer says:

    This city has other more important infrastructure priorities on which it can spend half a million dollars. No easy this should happen!!!Report

    Reply
  12. Jeff Kling says:

    Fort Mac was never marketed properly. The private sector was never brought in to manage the process the correct way. This was a make work project from the beginning that has been going on for years. The plan to package this as a sweetheart deal was put together a few years back. TP Studios was the perfect opportunity.Report

    Reply
  13. Ashamed of My City says:

    I agree with everyone who has posted, as a transplant and long term Atlanta region resident once again the politics of this city and state have proven to run a muck.   Mayor Reed is looking more like former New Orleans Mayor (now federal inmate) Ray Nagin and Gov. (Lets Make A) Deal is like former Louisiana Governor Huey Long.  All of these people are crooks and have been known for backroom deals to their benefits and not the public’s. 

    Ft. MacPherson could have truly been the “Atlantic Station” for the East Point area of town, now it is already setup for complete failure and embarrassment, thanks a million Mayor Reed and Gov. Deal once again for helping to kill off job growth and real investment.

    An opens record lawsuit should be filed to block this deal from closing, if for nothing less for the last minute (two hours notice) of replacing the one person with courage to stand up and try and stop this deal with two who laid down (got a pay off somewhere) to help push it through.

    This screams for a federal investigation of possible wrong doing.  

    Signed Ashamed of my City and StateReport

    Reply

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