By David Pendered
The enthusiasm of some Atlanta residents to weigh in on the rezoning of Fort McPherson once the Army vacates the property on Sept. 15 is just a bit premature, the man overseeing the process said Friday.
The conversation about rezoning Fort McPherson arose this week at Atlanta City Hall, a month before the city’s rezoning process is to begin. Civic advocates used a presentation of the official redevelopment plan to deliver their alternate ideas for redeveloping the 488-acre parcel located between Downtown Atlanta and the airport.
The group included influential speakers such as Sen. Vincent Fort, a Democrat who represents the area; Michael Dobbins, the city’s former planning director who now teaches at Georgia Tech; and Deborah Scott, the executive director of Georgia Standup who led the battle to ensure that affordable housing is provided in tax-subsidized developments along the BeltLine.
However, the executive director of the state authority overseeing the fort’s conversion said Friday the rezoning debate is premature.
At this point in the process, said Jack Sprott, the authority simply is putting the council on formal alert that the fort’s redevelopment plan is forthcoming.
“We have completed a reuse master plan,” Sprott said Friday. “That plan concerns what to do with the land inside the fence, which is the way the Army required us to do it.
“We presented it to the City Council so they can take it as they see fit,” Sprott said. “We’re offering it up just to get it onto the city’s radar.”
The proposal certainly hit the public’s radar.
Fort, Dobbins, Scott and the area residents stepped forward to say there are better ways to redevelop the fort than the proposal by the Fort McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority.
“Instead of being an engine for gentrification, this should be an engine for stabilizing the neighborhood,” Fort said. “I want everyone to come to this development, but the community that has endured so many things for so long, must benefit.”
The redevelopment authority started work in 2006. It was formed after the military announced in 2005 that Fort McPherson would be closed as part of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Law.
The Fort McPherson redevelopment plan envisions a mixed-use community:
- 4 million square feet of office and labs;
- 400,000 square feet of shopping and other retail;
- 2,600 homes.
The framework of the development involves:
- A linear park along the path of the existing golf course;
- A 30-acre event space that could accommodate the big public gatherings such as the Dogwood Festival;
- Residential communities are to be established in the northern and western areas;
- The big old homes in the northeast corner, which are on the National Register of Historic Places, will be sold to individuals;
- A bio science research center is to be established in conjunction with the state in the eastern area;
- High density mixed use projects are to be developed in the southeast area.
Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, who chairs the Community Development Committee, said the City Council will convene a series of meetings in the coming weeks to give the public additional opportunities to comment.
But getting everyone who’s concerned to attend a meeting is always a challenge, she said.
“We call out, we mail out – we’re doing all we can to reach out to folks.”