Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office on Monday sent a letter demanding the Fort McPherson redevelopment authority repay the city nearly $4.8 million in loans, a move that comes weeks after the agency completed the sale of a former command building that the mayor opposed.
In a letter dated Oct. 2, city Chief Financial Officer Roosevelt Council said the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, or Fort Mac LRA, is in default of its agreements with the city. For years, Fort Mac LRA has turned to the city for financial lifelines with the expectation the city would be repaid from proceeds from the sale of Fort Mac property.
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Fort Mac LRA recently celebrated the $17 million sale of the Forces Command building to Easterly Government Services for a future Food and Drug Administration lab. The sale was expected to provide the agency with enough cash to pay off outstanding debts and fund its mission to oversee redevelopment of about 145 acres of remaining Fort McPherson land.
That deal, however, was opposed by Bottoms, who in late August asked the board to delay the closing and consider a competing offer from filmmaker Tyler Perry. Perry bought most of Fort McPherson in 2015 and last weekend celebrated the official grand opening of his studio complex.
“The City has a general duty to its taxpayers to enforce the City’s contractual rights and to collect all amounts due thereunder,” the demand letter said. “Please understand that this letter has been prepared and sent for the sole purpose of encouraging settlement discussions.”
On Monday the Mayor’s office issued a statement on the collection note saying, “The City supports a smart, forward-thinking development of the remaining land at Fort Mac, however we have an obligation to taxpayers to enforce the reimbursement of loaned funds per the existing contractual agreement.”
The city’s demand letter could put the authority in a financial bind. Fort Mac LRA is negotiating a new development agreement with master developers Stephen Macauley and David Moody. But if the two sides don’t come to an agreement, the LRA also could have to buyout the partners and and reopen its search for a developer.
Macauley was named master developer for the site in 2017. He’s proposed about 2,500 residences, retail, offices and a performing arts center on the remaining Fort Mac LRA land. But talks soured earlier this year as the Fort Mac LRA board failed to meet for months.
Relations have improved of late and a pivotal vote whether to move forward could come Oct. 17.
“LRA staff is reviewing our records and will respond as soon as possible to the City’s demand letter,” the agency said in a statement.
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