The civilian agency steering redevelopment at Fort McPherson on Wednesday unveiled a draft of a plan outlining potential future development around the closed Army post.
The draft being developed under the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Centers Initiative outlines nodes of development near the two MARTA stations within the 1,300-acre study area, as well as a cluster near a future extension of the Beltline. The document also showed needed infrastructure improvements, including street extensions, streetscape work, new bike lanes and sidewalks and other improvements to make the area safer for pedestrians.
The meeting at Atlanta Technical College south of downtown drew about 150 residents and provided the most detailed glimpse yet of the planning going into the LCI master plan.
The McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, recently re-branded as Fort Mac LRA, is leading the planning effort. It is part market study and part land use plan to guide development on the 145 acres the agency owns, as well as in a study area that includes a future southern leg of the Beltline and the Oakland City and Lakewood Fort McPherson MARTA stations.
Residents in past meetings have outlined job creation, education, retail, public safety, affordable housing, senior housing and preserving historic buildings as top priorities for the community.
Fort Mac LRA officials and their consultants said their analysis shows demand for a considerable amount of neighborhood-scale retail, including a grocery store, pharmacy and hardware store. Tyler Perry Studios’ business activity will largely be confined in a secured area, but with those workers there, communities around the post will also support coffee shops and restaurants and additional residential development, planners said.
The neighborhoods south of downtown have long been starved for investment, and the post’s closure and the housing collapse were a double whammy for the community.
The future Beltline segment and the first phase of Tyler Perry’s film campus represent about $150 million in investment coming to the area in the next few years, and those dollars will attract other real estate speculators and investors, Fort Mac LRA Executive Director Brian Hooker said. That could stimulate further demand.
“We see property values around us going up as investors buy property betting on what’s to come,” Hooker said.
A development node near the future Beltline segment is likely to be among the earliest to see development. The area features existing commercial and industrial space that could spout into office space for creative firms and light manufacturers and become a hub for denser residential development, restaurants and retail, the planners said. Small firms doing business near other segments of the Beltline are seeing rent spikes, and refurbished space on the city’s Southside could be attractive to them, planners said.
The Oakland City MARTA station, which MARTA officials hope to bring to market for a transit-oriented development, also could support denser residential development. Meanwhile, the Fort Mac LRA property is likely to become a main street with neighborhood retail, parks, medical offices, potentially a charter school and apartments.
The Veterans Administration already has medical facilities on the post and authority leaders have previously said office space on the Fort Mac LRA property could be pitched to film companies or other media firms.
Having a master plan and development concept will make the property more attractive to the private sector and help the agency and future private partners access capital and potential development incentives, Hooker has said. The area’s tax allocation district also could be tapped to help finance needed infrastructure improvements.
Low median incomes in the Fort McPherson area are a challenge to overcome in attracting retailers, but the new investment by the Beltline and Tyler Perry and master plan will help planners sell the region, Hooker said.
Several attendees said they liked the design concepts.
East Point resident Gloria Jenkins said she wants to see the area become a destination that draws people from outside the community. The neighborhood also needs affordable senior housing to help retirees remain in areas many have lived in for decades, she said.
Rodney Mullis, a West End resident and CEO of West Atlanta Progress, also said the Fort McPherson area needs to become a destination. But it needs support for existing small businesses.
“If we want to start businesses, access to capital is a big issue,” he said. Mullis also said he wants to make sure that with new development, longtime residents aren’t pushed out because of rising property values and taxes. Neighborhoods along the Eastside Beltline trail have become unaffordable, he said.
Hooker, the Fort Mac LRA head, said that a major goal is to lift up the area’s standard of living by creating better-paying jobs for residents. The agency is also working on a grant program to assist longtime homeowners with certain home improvements.
Atlanta City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, who is also a Fort Mac LRA board member, said economy wrecked the former master plan that called for a life science campus and mixed-use development on the post. But the new plans and the investment to come are huge opportunities for South Atlanta.
“We want better for our community, but we can’t stay where we are,” she said.