Residents of neighborhoods around Fort McPherson met with planners Thursday night to start a community study that will outline the future of an area long starved for investment and redevelopment.
About 70 residents crowded into the Rev. James Orange Park Recreation Center for the public kickoff for a Livable Centers Initiative study of some 1,300 acres near the fort. The area stretches largely along the MARTA line and the northern side of the closed Army post to the Oakland City neighborhood.
The neighborhoods were hit hard in the past decade by the closure of Fort McPherson and the economic crisis.
The area is expected to see an influx of new projects, including filmmaker Tyler Perry’s new movie studio that will cover most of the fort as well as the Westside Beltline trail. MARTA is preparing for private development of parking lots at its Oakland City station.
Officials with the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority say Tyler Perry Studios and the Beltline expansion alone total about $150 million in fresh investment.
Joyce Sheperd, a MILRA board member and Atlanta City Councilwoman, called the projects “catalysts” for Southside redevelopment.
In June, filmmaker Tyler Perry acquired most of the closed Army post for $30 million. He plans a film studio, and documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show he also submitted maps to the civilian authority detailing a potential future amphitheater and museum on the property.
The complicated transaction left the redevelopment agency with about 144 acres of land to develop under civilian control.
An Urban Land Institute panel recently recommended options for the civilian land, including an expanded Veterans Administration medical center, offices for federal agencies, government contractors and media companies as well as retail, restaurants and apartments.
Residents recommended a number of changes to the area they’d like to see, including better sidewalks and repaved streets, improvements to area parks, the rehab of blighted housing and better community policing. Others said the region needs jobs and workforce training.
Southwest Atlanta has lagged the community investment in infrastructure seen elsewhere, said Darnetta Nichols, who wants to see the neighborhoods improved for the next generation.
“Why is everybody else’s stuff getting done and not southwest Atlanta?” she said. “The serious development, we’ve been waiting a long time.”
The area, she said, is prime for redevelopment given its proximity to downtown and the airport.
Brian Hooker, MILRA executive director, said he heard both frustration and hope from the residents: frustration at current conditions and hope that new opportunities await.
MILRA plans to hold a fall festival Oct. 24 to get future community input.
To read more about the planning efforts, look for a story soon on MyAJC.com.