By David Pendered

A lot should become clear this week about the likelihood that a portion of Fort McPherson will be redeveloped anytime soon.

Tuesday is the deadline for proposals from master developers who want to oversee development of a 113-acre node of commercial and residential uses. Later this week, Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to unveil his 2013 budget, which will show if the governor recommends funds for a planned science and technology research center at the fort.

The Georgia Institute for Global Health is to be established in the former offices of the U.S. Army Forces Command. Credit: U.S. Army

Deal has spoken highly of the fort’s economic development potential and the plan to retrofit the former FORSCOM building into the Georgia Institute for Global Health. The fort’s redevelopment plan anticipates the state will sell bonds to raise money to help pay for the redevelopment.

However, the governor has not indicated the extent to which he will support state borrowing to induce development. Deal already has said he will introduce a lean budget for maintenance and operations – possibly reflecting the 2 percent cut in spending that he asked his agency heads to provide in their proposed budgets.

Two or three master developers have expressed interest in the project, said Jack Sprott, the executive director of the state authority overseeing the fort’s conversion to civilian use – the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority.

The level of interest is important because it will indicate the appetite in the development industry for taking on a major, long-term project in metro Atlanta. Georgia’s economy is expected to remain sluggish until 2020, according to an economic forecast released in November by the University of Georgia.

Sprott said the Army “encouraged” the authority to bring in a master developer.

“Frankly, we submitted something to them and they came back with comments,” Sprott said. “They encouraged us to put a master developer on the team, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Army still owns and controls the entire 488-acre site that it has occupied since the close of the Civil War.

Fort McPherson was ordered closed as part of a cost-saving effort by the military, which made significant changes at almost 200 bases or facilities as part of its 2005 realignment and closure program.

Closing Fort McPherson was estimated to create ongoing savings of $82.1 million a year, at a one-time cost of $214.5 million. The U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and the headquarters of the Army Reserve Command were relocated to Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, N.C. Other administrative details were moved to military bases in South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

The Army vacated the property in September, leaving a major void in Southwest Atlanta.

The job loss was significant because the fort was Atlanta’s seventh largest employer, according to the final 2005 report by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. A total of 6,846 jobs were lost when the base closed. That figure includes 4,141 direct job losses, and 2,705 indirect job losses, according to the report.

Two key purposes of the redevelopment effort are to create jobs and to integrate the fort back into its neighborhood.

The deadline is noon for responding to the request for qualifications the authority issued in November.

Fort McPherson Main Gate
Fort McPherson Main Gate. Photo by David Pendered

Looking ahead, the schedule calls for the authority’s board to meet Jan. 17 and create a committee that will conduct interviews with respondents on Jan. 25. The board expects to select a master developer in February.

The master developer is likely to be a joint venture comprised of several companies, each of which will bring expertise in handling the various tasks involved in redeveloping the closed Army base.

The list of requirements or preferences includes:

  • Experience in delivering large mixed use projects in a city;
  • Experience in developing a closed military or federal facility;
  • Experience in developing in the Atlanta area;
  • Ability to raise capital;
  • Ability to communicate with public and private stakeholders.

Companies are permitted to be on more than one team that submits its qualifications, provided that they hold less than 15 percent of the voting interests in any of the joint ventures.

Fort McPherson redevelopment plan.
The planned research center at Fort McPherson would be built in the southeastern corner of the property. Credit: Fort McPherson Local Implementing Redevelopment Authority.

David Pendered

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...

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