Base to become a vibrant community

Atlanta was 50 years young when Fort McPherson was established in 1885 on five tracts of land several miles south of town. The location was rural and disconnected from the economic activities of the railroad hub to the north.

Over the past 129 years, the city of Atlanta has expanded its boundaries. Expressways and heavy rail now serve the local transportation needs of our citizens. Fort McPherson is no longer isolated. This historic 486-acre property is completely within the city limits, on a MARTA line and just four miles from the world’s busiest airport.

Those who have been involved in our community engagement subcommittee, public outreach or monthly board meetings understand that the closure and transfer of a military facility under the Base Realignment and Closure Act is a lengthy, complicated process. Federal law mandates a “grassroots” planning process. Under the direction of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, local communities drive the planning, zoning and re-use of the property. Our approved plan calls for a re-development that is sustainable economically, environmentally and socially.

Our vision is to transform Fort McPherson and its surrounding neighborhoods into a nationally acclaimed, world-class, walkable community where people live, work and play in a regional commerce center designed to attract industries such as advanced logistics, bio-science, health information technology or film and television.

The Forces Command Building is ideal to house health data, film studio technology or a bio-medical company. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has invested $40 million to create an outpatient clinic and expansive medical complex to include primary medical care and mental health, dental, lab and radiology services. Other areas will be developed as mixed-use residential, single-family residential, neighborhood commercial and light manufacturing, with a focus on Georgia’s burgeoning film and film-technology industry.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Fort McPherson’s Historic Village was a walkable place, wholly. We intend to build on the character of the stately homes along Staff Row. We expect the Historic Village will attract the creative community and entrepreneurs who will open cafes, studios, art galleries and bed-and-breakfast lodging to complement the homes and parade ground.

We acknowledge the challenges ahead. Having only been known as a military facility, Fort McPherson lacks a “development identity.” The surrounding area is economically depressed. Retail structures are in disrepair. There is little investment along the Campbellton Road and Lee Street corridors. That said, we believe positive, incremental change is possible. We have the full support of Atlanta and Georgia and their economic development agencies. The entire campus lies within the Campbellton Road Tax Allocation District, which will provide much-needed infrastructure funding.

This summer, ownership of Fort McPherson will transfer from the U.S. Army to the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority. We stand ready to transform a shuttered base into a vibrant community.

Jack C. Sprott is executive director of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority.