By David Pendered
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) has asked the secretary of the Army to block the conversion of Fort McPherson into a movie studio, as proposed by filmmaker Tyler Perry.
Fort quickly pivoted to the political side of the debate over the fort’s reuse, after beginning his letter to the secretary with a recount of the public process that ended with the approval of a plan to build a mixed-use community on the grounds of the old fort.
To consider a studio now, without any public review, is, “the old ‘bait and switch’ that has been used for centuries to exclude people of color and the powerless from important economic decisions,” Fort wrote in his letter to Army Secretary John McHugh.
“The reuse plan was not developed to enrich few people, but to uplift the entire community,” Fort wrote. “At its heart is the creation of jobs and affordable homes for our people and for future generations….”
“Finally, I am concerned that this is occurring in a predominately African-American community,” Fort wrote. “I wonder if this would happen in other communities.”
Perry’s proposal appears to be moving very quickly.
The plan became known in mid June and, on Friday, the board that oversees the fort’s conversion to civilian use is to meet to consider the “purchase and sale of real estate.”
The meeting agenda does not indicate the identity of the purchaser. Members of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority have declined to discuss Perry’s proposal in public since it became public knowledge.
Fort draws a stark distinction between the consideration given neighborhoods near the base now that a studio has been proposed, and the consideration given to other neighborhoods that faced a game-changing proposed development.
“Let’s be real,” Fort said. “This is a predominately African American community. Would this happen in other communities?”
- Home Park, north of Georgia Tech. Residents feared their neighborhood would be overwhelmed by the construction of Atlantic Station. As a result, streets were addressed to reduce cut-through traffic.
- Ansley Park, in Midtown, across the Downtown Connector from Atlantic Station. Residents feared it would become a cut-through from between Atlantic Station and Piedmont Road. Streets were addressed to reduce cut-through traffic and the neighborhood association received payments to address other issues.
Berkeley Park, near I-75 and Howell Mill Road. Residents feared a Walmart and other shops, and apartments, would overwhelm their neighborhood. Curb cuts and traffic lights were addressed, and the site plan tweaked to reduce the load on Howell Mill Road.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like what we’re seeing with Fort McPherson happen anywhere else in the city,” Fort said.
Fort convened a media conference Thursday morning to announce the request he’s submitting to the Army secretary. Fort was flanked by about a dozen supporters.
Some of the residents said they do not plan to rally in front of the fort Friday, as was discussed Thursday. Instead, they plan to have a community meeting Aug. 14.
Fort McPherson was ordered closed in September 2005. Congress approved the recommendations of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which called for the closure of a total of 33 major installations, according to a federal report. BRAC intended to streamline military bases and reduce costs.