Developer Stephen Macauley describes the proposed Campbellton district to some audience members during the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority Board Meeting at Fort Mac LRA in July in Atlanta. Macauley and the LRA have since parted ways. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Buyout of Fort Mac developer Stephen Macauley to cost $3.5 million

The Fort McPherson redevelopment authority has approved a $3.5 million buyout of its former lead developer, putting an end to his plans for a residential and commercial project that promised to be a major economic boon on Atlanta’s southside.

The board of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority approved the deal late last month with developer Stephen Macauley after a nearly three year relationship and months of acrimony. Terms were made public Thursday as part of board discussion of the authority’s audit.

The board had voted in October to cut ties with Macauley. The break-up was expected to cost several million dollars under the terms of Macauley’s contract, including for his work on a master plan.

In a news release, the authority said it “appreciates Macauley and its team’s commitment to excellence and their more than two years of working with the community.” Macauley declined to comment.

Fort Mac closed in 2011, delivering an economic blow to nearby neighborhoods already ravaged by the foreclosure crisis and the Great Recession. In 2015, the authority acquired the 488-acre site from the Army and sold 330 acres to filmmaker Tyler Perry, who has since developed a sprawling movie studio.

Macauley was named the developer for the remaining 145 acres of the former Army post in May 2017. He and partners proposed to develop about 2,500 residences, offices, shops, lodging, restaurants and a performing arts center under a long-term land lease.

A rendering of Macauley Investments’ planned $700 million-plus master planned development for about 145 acres of the former Fort McPherson. The deal has been scraped and officials are seeking a replacement. SPECIAL to the AJC from Macauley Investments.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

But relations between Macauley and the authority, also known as Fort Mac LRA, grew strained.

In February, Macauley and Fort Mac LRA appeared to be on the cusp of a new development deal, but the relationship devolved into allegations by each side that the other was in default.

The allegations contained some racial overtones. Macauley asserted in an email that he’d been told an adviser to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had said Macauley was being “coddled” because he is white. Fort Mac LRA’s former executive director also expressed doubts about Macauley’s financial wherewithal.

Macauley, meanwhile, alleged the agency had strung him along with needless delays and altered deal terms. Representatives of the city also approached Perry about taking on the project amid tensions with Macauley.

Last summer, Macauley urged the authority board to stick with him, and he eventually added David Moody, the leader of one of the Atlanta area’s largest minority-owned construction companies, as a new partner in a bid to salvage a deal.

In August, Fort Mac LRA sold a former command building for $17 million to a different developer, Easterly Government Properties, for a future U.S. Food and Drug Administration facility.

The buyout includes a $1 million payment to Macauley related to the FORSCOM building under a term in his contract known as an “excluded property fee.” The sale to Easterly made the FORSCOM building unavailable for Macauley to develop, triggering the clause.

Fort Mac LRA continues to seek a new executive director and the authority remains at odds with the city over debt the city says is due following the sale of the FORSCOM building.

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