An Atlanta City Council committee approved legislation Tuesday to spend $1.3 million to keep afloat the beleaguered agency tasked with the redevelopment of Fort McPherson.
Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, who represents the district surrounding the closed Army post, said the financial lifeline is needed to help fund operations of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, or Fort Mac LRA, to keep on track a pending real estate deal for a future U.S. Food and Drug Administration laboratory.
But the dysfunctional agency recently saw its chairman, a second board member and executive director resign. The authority board also previously failed to meet for nearly five months saying it lacked enough voting members. And the agency also has been at loggerheads with its master developer, a rift that festered after months of board inactivity.
The leadership upheaval has put at risk a deal to sell the former forces command or FORSCOM building to developer Easterly Government Properties. Easterly plans to renovate the structure for the FDA, which would relocate its existing Atlanta lab and offices and 350 workers from Midtown.
“We can’t even vote on the FDA sale,” Sheperd said. “We are at point where if we don’t do something we are going to be financially strapped until we sell the FDA building.”
Earlier this year, the city extended the LRA a loan for $500,000 to help keep its doors open. That money and any new money, which would need full council approval, would be repaid from proceeds of the pending $17 million sale to Easterly, Sheperd said.
The $1.3 million should fund operations for six months, she said.
The delays have raised concerns among some real estate observers about the future of the Easterly deal. Sheperd said she and others are pressing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Gov. Brian Kemp to install replacement board members to keep talks going.
Sheperd didn’t directly answer when asked if there’s a looming deadline with Easterly and its renovation plans for the FDA lab.
“The FDA is ready to go,” she said.
The authority took control of the post in 2015 and that year sold about 330 acres of the property to filmmaker Tyler Perry for $30 million. In that time, Perry has built a bustling film studio, but the remaining LRA land remains a walled off and little-used eyesore.
Under the LRA’s bylaws, the mayors of Atlanta and East Point each recommend five board candidates who are appointed by the governor, which also has an appointment of his own. The governor also selects the chair, which as of Tuesday has yet to happen.
Bottoms office did not respond to a request for comment.
The agency’s rift with its master developer, Stephen Macauley, is another pressing issue. The LRA’s former executive director raised questions about Macauley’s financial capacity and changes the developer wanted in the deal that he said weren’t good for the agency.
Macauley’s team accused the authority of needless delays coupled with impossible deadlines to meet planning and other milestones. The fight has even taken on racial overtones with Macauley asserting he was told he was being “coddled” because he is white.
Texts obtained by the AJC, meanwhile, showed Perry has expressed interest in buying all or part of the remaining Fort Mac acreage.
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