Fort McPherson rezoning begins in June; civic leaders already lining up to voice opinions

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.

Fort McPherson Main Gate

Fort McPherson Main Gate. Photo by David Pendered

“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.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 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.

4 replies
  1. a transit fan says:

    A total of 2,600 residences… not 26,000?

    MARTA rail should not exist to service golf courses and cemeteries. The southeast portion, for example, needs a development plan for mixed-use with actual high-density.

    When our metro competes for Federal transit dollars, we need feathers in our cap not oil on our britches (and coal dust on our face). Civic leaders must see the bigger picture.Report

  2. SW ATL Guy says:

    The rezoning plan proposed by the LRA is a good start. What this area needs more than anything else though is jobs! There is plenty of good housing stock in the neighborhood, although a lot of it is need of updating. So, the main focus of this project needs to be bringing good paying jobs to SW Atlanta and integrating the existing neighborhoods that surround the base. A successful redevelopment project will help kickstart the resurgence of this part of Atlanta.

    My biggest concern with the rezoning plan as proposed is that it doesn’t doing an adequate job of integrating Lee Street into the site as a main thoroughfare. Most of the commercial space on the proposed site places faces inward, towards the center of the site. To me, this is not an inviting design that is going to revive the crumbling Lee Street commercial corridor. The City Council should look at ways to offer some redevelopment incentives on Lee Street to make it a more attractive “entrance” to the Fort Mac site.Report

  3. Neighbor says:

    “Stabilization” would seem to imply keeping things the same, and right now, keeping things at status quo is not appealing. “Gentrification” would be to improve , revitalize, and add on to what is already there, which sounds welcome to me, as well as friends and neighbors I have spoken to privately. I am also surprised at the number of “advocacy” groups who seem to have an axe to grind with the process. I hope they will not delay the process with unreasonable demands. I am excited about what the Redevelopment group has come up with, and appreciate that I can see they have listened to community input. They seem to have put a lot of thought into the tentative plan.
    I do think, however, they should do a better job of putting information out to the community. Their website is seldom updated, and the information is wordy and full of governmentese and acronyms that people outside the immediate loop, and therefore inaccessible to the average Joe. And in all honesty, a lot of the average Joes in this area aren’t on the net anyway, so they need alternative ways to get the info out. The information disseminated by a lot of the advocacy groups is also full of hearsay and rumor. I am amazed at how many people I run acrost who don’t even know the base is closing, or that there is this huge plan in the works. Getting the information out to the area in a clearer fashion, and updating it frequently, would help quell the various groups that are springing up on every corner.Report


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