Fort Mac board meets, but no decision yet on development agreement
By Maggie Lee
The board of the public authority that’s overseeing the redevelopment of Fort McPherson met Thursday for the first time in four months. Its executive director was not present and board members asked about getting more information before they vote on a milestone plan for 145 acres of reconstruction.
“We’re ready to move forward. We can’t move forward without the master project area agreement in place,” developer Stephen Macauley told the board of the Fort McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority on Thursday. He leads Macauley Investments, selected by the board in 2017 as the master developer for most of the shuttered fort site that’s not already occupied by Tyler Perry Studios.
At the top of Macauley’s to-do list at in 2017 were public meetings to help refine a site “master plan:” a blueprint for the property which would align with the Livable Centers Initiative study of the area that called for green space, mixed-use development and mixed-income housing, among other things.
And in November 2018, Macauley filed state paperwork outlining a plan of 4,000,000 square feet of real estate, with office space, a school, retail space, restaurants, hotel rooms, a new street grid and, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported. The current plan is for about 2,500 residential units, of which 60 percent would be priced below market rate.
The idea was that the master plan would be followed by a master project area agreement, the next contractual step to starting work on the $760 million development. At the last board meeting in February, the board agreed to an agreement in principle.
But the authority is looking for more documents from Macauley, said its senior director for real estate, David Burt, said at the Thursday meeting.
Burt, Macauley and several board members spent several minutes discussing whether certain documents had or hadn’t been sent or received.
Board Chair Cassius Butts thanked Macauley for his comments and said Fort Mac LRA looks forward to receiving some yet outstanding data so that they and staff can review it.
The conversation was friendly on all sides with promises to be in touch in the coming days, but there’s been discord over the last few months, according to media reports.
Earlier this month, SaportaReport reported on indications that Alvin Kendall, an attorney close to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, was trying to sideline Macauley. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Fort Mac LRA’s executive director Brian Hooker was calling Macauley’s finances into question.
Hooker was absent from the meeting and no explanation of that was given. The board spent about three hours in closed executive session discussing real estate and personnel matters. Butts did not report anything out of the executive session, saying that no decisions were made. In response to reporters’ questions, Butts said that he could not comment on personnel matters.
Meanwhile, neighborhood activists are looking for something to finally happen, as long as it’s the right thing.
Judy Walker lives about a mile away from Fort Mac and has been deeply involved in the fort redevelopment since before the U.S. Army made their long-discussed exit in 2011.
She doesn’t want to see the community outside the old fort left out of the prosperity, development and amenities that will come from the rebuild. But yet, longtime residents, those folks who carried the neighborhood through hard times, have to be able to afford to stay.
“I’d like to see that it’s an inclusive development,” Walker said.
Speaking to the board, Walker called into question the below-market-rate housing — and the fact that much of it would still be priced for folks right around the middle of the income ladder rather than a few rungs lower. She said she’d also like to see an endowment that longtime area residents could tap to pay for home repairs and rising property taxes in a neighborhood that’s already seeing investors move in. Such anti-displacement funds already cover parts of the Westside.
Fort Mac Photo gallery by Kelly Jordan