Fort McPherson wins ARC grant to update area master plan as Tyler Perry studio deal unfolds
By David Pendered
As Tyler Perry prepares to purchase most of Fort McPherson, the Atlanta Regional Commission on Wednesday provided a $60,000 grant to update a 2004 master plan for the surrounding area.
The Turner Field area also won a grant provided by ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative. The $212,000 award to Atlanta is to help fund a concept plan that includes transportation needs and enhances the surrounding neighborhoods.
In all, the ARC provided a total of $800,000 in grants to a total of eight entities that applied for money they are to use to create plans for quality growth. The ARC’s funding comes from federal transportation sources. The ARC funds 80 percent of a study and the recipient pays the remaining 20 percent.
The grant to the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority could not have arrived at a better time, according to Brian Hooker, MILRA’s executive director.
MILRAs board approved a resolution on Dec. 9 that defines the boundaries of about 330 acres Perry intends to purchase and develop into film studios. The deal leaves MILRA with about 144 acres to redevelop, including land that fronts Lee Street and Campbellton Road, in southwest Atlanta.
Hooker noted that the previous Oakland City/Lakewood LCI did not encompass Fort McPherson. The Army still owned the base and its closure was not announced until 2005.
“Given the upcoming transfer of the property from the Army to local hands, the timing couldn’t be better,” Hooker wrote in an email conversation.
“Tyler Perry plans to invest more than $100 million in the development of a new film and television studio once he purchases 330 acres at Fort McPherson. This promises to catalyze investment in the 144-acre balance of the property and in the surrounding community.
“With ARC’s support, we have the opportunity to help ensure that the retail, office, multifamily and green spaces developed on the 144-acre publicly controlled property will embrace and connect to the surrounding communities and make them more livable.”
This is how MILRA characterized the scope of work in its application for an LCI grant:
- “The redevelopment will include commercial mixed use redevelopment, featuring retail such as home improvement, home goods, apparel , grocers and restaurants, as well as loft office space, medical office buildings, and medium density residential. We expect this redevelopment to serve as catalyst for transit oriented development at Oakland City MARTA station and for residential development throughout the Oakland/Lakewood LCI.
- “A featured attraction will be a public plaza at the center of a network of multi-use trails that loop the entire property and connect via a new pedestrian bridge to the redeveloping neighborhoods and potential new developments east of Lee Street and the MARTA/CSX lines. The trails will ultimately connect to the Atlanta BeltLine just one mile to the north.”
According to ARC’s announcement of the LCI grants, Turner Field is at the center of a major evaluation. The resulting study will supplement efforts by Atlanta Councilmember Carla Smith to include nearby residents in the discussion of how the area can best be retooled after the Braves depart following the 2016 season.
This is the ARC’s characterization:
- “This study will help the communities adjacent to Turner Field envision the future of the stadium and surrounding parking lots, develop a concept plan and rethink transportation infrastructure needs, all while enhancing and protecting existing neighborhoods. The City of Atlanta will partner with the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, Annie E. Casey Foundation (which is contributing financial resources for the study), the Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and various neighborhood organizations.”
Locust Grove was awarded a $92,000 grant to devise a master plan for the area surrounding the Tanger Outlet Mall that faces I-75. The plan is to balance the relationship between the dynamic retail center and its more rural surroundings, according to ARC’s statement:
- “This plan will help the City of Locust Grove manage commercial and residential development pressure and guide growth for the town center and areas adjacent to the Tanger Outlet Mall and I-75 interchange. The study will focus on development plans for vacant tracts of land, as well as infill development in the town center, while also preserving and enhancing the historic character of Locust Grove and improving connectivity throughout the study area.”
The five other grant winners announced by ARC include:
- City of Buford, $100,000 for a major plan update with a focus on connectivity to schools.
- City of Canton, $104,000 for a major plan update including expansion of the study area into the historic downtown.
- City of Powder Springs, $80,000 for a major plan update with a focus on concept plans for vacant land downtown and connection to the Silver Comet Trail.
- City of Chamblee and MARTA, $104,000 for a trail concept and feasibility study on MARTA property and extending to destinations throughout Chamblee.
- City of Norcross, $48,000, for a greenway trail feasibility study for two segments along a Georgia Power easement and Beaver Ruin Road.
ARC’s executive director, Doug Hooker, offered this observation in the ARC statement:
“Communities all over the region are eager to revitalize their town centers and underutilized properties to create places that foster a vibrant neighborhood feel and environment. From urban transitional areas like the Turner Field neighborhoods to bustling suburban downtowns like Locust Grove, LCI grants help communities re-imagine what they can be and then help make those visions a reality.”
ARC’s chairman, Kerry Armstrong, observed:
“LCI has helped many communities across metro Atlanta reinvent and improve themselves since our board established the program in 1999. Our local government partners have used these grants to create more places that attract residents and businesses, improving their communities and the entire region.”