Fort Mac agency chief resigns as questions about project remain

A rendering of Macauley Investments’ planned $700 million-plus master planned development for about 145 acres of the former Fort McPherson. SPECIAL to the AJC from Macauley Investments.

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The agency overseeing redevelopment of Fort McPherson on Wednesday accepted the resignation of its executive director as questions loom about the future of the closed Army post.

The search to replace Brian Hooker as head of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority will begin immediately and comes at a turbulent time. There are strained relations with the master developer charged with completing a $700 million mixed-use community and the board is weighing a pending deal to sell a former Army command building for a future U.S. Food and Drug Administration laboratory complex.

The Fort Mac LRA board voted to approve Hooker’s resignation and a separation agreement after a two-hour executive session. Hooker, who led the organization since 2014, appeared to be on his way out after he was a no-show at a board meeting earlier this month.

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FLASHBACK PHOTOS: Life at Fort McPherson

In 2017, the LRA selected Stephen Macauley as master developer of 145 acres at Fort McPherson controlled by the agency. Delays and infighting between key players in the deal have raised questions about whether the ambitious proposal in an economically struggling area of Southwest Atlanta is in jeopardy.

LRA Chairman Cassius Butts thanked Hooker for his service to the agency but officials declined further comment. A request for Hooker’s separation agreement is pending. Attempts to reach Hooker were not successful.

The board named Invest Atlanta executive Alan Ferguson as interim executive director. LRA spokesman Mark Hayes said the agency “remains fully capable” of performing its mission.

It’s unclear if the leadership change might slow an already stalled process to proceed with development. Prior to this month, the board had failed to meet since February.

Fort McPherson closed in 2011 and the LRA took control of the 488-acre site from the Army in 2015. Filmmaker Tyler Perry acquired about 330 acres for $30 million that year and has since built a sprawling movie studio campus.

For the past two years, Macauley crafted a master plan and rezoned the property. But relations between parties soured since February when the sides appeared to be on the cusp of a fuller development agreement.

Macauley’s team accused the authority of needless delays coupled with impossible deadlines to meet planning and other milestones. Some of the communications included racial overtones with Macauley saying he was told he was being “coddled” because he is white.

The LRA raised questions about Macauley’s financial wherewithal and the collapse during the recession of his development business. Hooker also said the authority had misgivings about the deal’s structure.

Added to the mix is apparent interest from Perry to acquire part or all of the remaining LRA land. Talks with Perry's team occurred in secret while relations with Macauley grew strained.

The board’s next meeting is Aug. 8.

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