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Gov. Kemp asks Cassius Butts to come back as Fort Mac’s board chair

Maria Saporta
Fort Mac LRA Board Chair Cassius Butts (r) greets folks ahead of the July 11 board meeting. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

By Maria Saporta

At the urging of Gov. Brian Kemp, Cassius Butts has agreed to temporarily rescind his resignation as chair of the Fort Mac Local Redevelopment Authority and remain in that volunteer position at least through the next board meeting on Aug. 26.

Fort Mac LRA board met on July 11. (Left to right): Robert Mosby – staff, Meaghan Shannon-Vlkovic, Ernestine Gary, Chairman Cassius Butts and Carmen Chubb at the meeting (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Several business issues have been in limbo because there were too many vacancies on the board. One of the key deals that has been left hanging is the announced sale of the FORSCOM building to Easterly Government Properties for $17 million. The Federal Drug Administration has been wanting to locate its new Atlanta lab in the building – moving about 350 well-paying jobs from Midtown to Fort Mac.

“I’m happy to fulfill the commitment as requested by the governor and to the mission of the Fort Mac LRA board and staff and the city of Atlanta,” Butts said in a statement.

Butts plans to continue to honor his appointment as board chair at least through the upcoming board meeting on Monday at 1 p.m. An agenda has not been set at this time, but one will be provided ahead of the board meeting.

Cassius Butts

The other major outstanding issue is the sale or long-term lease of 144 acres of land surrounding Tyler Perry Studios’ 330 acres. The Macauley Investments group, headed by Stephen Macauley, was named the master developer for the site more than two years ago, but the Fort Mac board has been holding back executing the master development agreement for several months – partly because it did not have enough board members. Brian Hooker, the executive director of the Fort Mac LRA, recently left the agency, and Invest Atlanta’s Alan Ferguson has stepped in as interim executive director.

Butts resigned from the Fort Mac LRA board on July 31 when Ferguson canceled an upcoming board meeting without consulting the chairman.

In his original letter of resignation to Kemp dated on July 31, Butts wrote: “It is critical that the Chair of the LRA have the capacity to support the vision and direction of the Authority. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to do so.”

FORSCOM building at Fort Mac is supposed to become the new Atlanta lab for the FDA (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

The governor appoints the board chair of the agency and must approve the appointments, based on the city’s recommendations, of the other board members.

Another board member, Georgia Power’s Lisa Smith resigned on the same day as Butts.

In texts obtained through an open records request, it became apparent that Tyler Perry Studios had been having conversations with Hooker and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ designated attorney Alvin Kendall about buying the 144 acres as well as the FORSCOM building.

 

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Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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