The City of Forest Park officially took control of about 800 acres of Fort Gillem, the sprawling former Army post south of Atlanta, and announced the first tenant for the logistics hub it plans there.
Grocery store giant Kroger plans to build a $175 million distribution center on 253 acres. It will hire initially 120 people, including warehouse, security, transportation management and other maintenance positions.
Forest Park is partnering with developers Weeks Robinson and Starwood Capital to continue building out the former base as the Gillem Logistics Center. It has a strategic location between I-675 and I-75 about nine miles east of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Mayor David Lockhart of Forest Park said the new center could employ 1,500 within two years.
Fred Bryant, the executive director of the authority charged with transitioning the former base from government to civilian uses, said the announcement came after eight-plus years of hard work by a lot of people. He expects the Kroger center to open in 15 to 18 months.
The land deal closing is the first phase in a transfer of more than 1,150 acres, with the rest going into civilian hands later this year after a long-delayed environmental cleanup is completed. After the post’s 2011 closure, the Army kept more than 250 acres of the 1,400-acre site which includes a military forensic lab.
Activities at Fort Gillem were wound down as the economy collapsed. Though the post had natural assets for a logistics hub such as its proximity to the world’s busiest airport and major freeways, it was emptied by the military at a time of profound economic duress for Clayton.
The recession battered the county harder than most in metro Atlanta, and Clayton also struggled in recent years with a school accreditation scandal, the loss of bus service and a foreclosure crisis.
But the county has seen some of it mojo return. The schools are accredited again and companies are scouting the county again, economic development officials say.
Chime Solutions, an outsourced human resources company and staffing firm that also operates call centers, last week said it plans to open its newest communications office inside the former J.C. Penney at Southlake Mall. The company plans to hire more than 1,120 people.