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Lawsuits, Politics and Tyler Perry: Fort McPherson's Future

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Watch your back, Hollywood; the ATLwood train keeps rolling forward. It was announced Friday that actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry will buy 330 acres of Fort McPherson to build a movie studio. The expansion of Tyler Perry Studios could, he claims, bring as many as 8,000 new jobs to the shuttered East Point military base. The remaining 158 acres will be redeveloped by the city of Atlanta, transformed into green space or used to fulfill the military requirement for homeless services. But not everyone is happy with the new agreement. Senator Vincent Fort called it a "secret back room deal" that "is a betrayal of the citizens of East Point and Atlanta," and another movie studio has filed a federal lawsuit to stop Perry. Mayor Reed, displaying typical subtlety, calls the lawsuit "outrageous" and "total garbage."

Senator Fort's concerns echo those of some residents who are bummed that the original community-driven master plan, started in 2007, has been tossed aside in favor of Perry's studio. That plan aimed to use the space for a life science and technology park surrounded by mixed-use developments, a job center, green spaces and preserved historic buildings. Unfortunately, it relied on finding a biomedical corporation to anchor the development, something that proved more difficult than anticipated. The mixed-use developer backed out of the project earlier this year. Another concern of East Point residents is the value of the land. Perry is paying $30 million for 330 acres, a price some say is well below market value.

Meanwhile, Ubiquitous Entertainment Studios and attorney Daniel Meachum filed a federal lawsuit in July, citing a lack of transparency and mishandling of the sale. In talks to build its own movie studio and entertainment complex on 85 acres of Fort McPherson, UE Studios had been meeting with the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority (MILRA), Invest Atlanta and Paramount Pictures since 2011. UE was told negotiations could not be started until the land was transferred from the U.S. Army.

When Mayor Reed announced the Perry studio deal, UE filed a federal lawsuit. In a response to Saporta Report, UE wrote: "...the process of developing these public lands was turned into a secretive, backroom deal that excluded any other citizens, entrepreneurs, proposals, input or consideration for the best deal available. Evidence of this flawed process is the statement by MILRA that its board has agreed to sell 330 acres to Tyler Perry at less than market value... We find it unacceptable that valuable public assets are directed to those who are selected by public officials without an open, transparent, fair and legal process. Such actions are tantamount to those of disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, not the behavior we have come to expect from the best of our elected officials in Atlanta." Ouch.

· Tensions mount on both sides of federal lawsuit opposing Tyler Perry's studio plans at Fort McPherson [Saporta Report]
· UPDATED: 'Fort Mac' board approves pact with Tyler Perry [AJC]
· State senator blasts Tyler Perry's Fort McPherson plan [Atlanta Business Chronicle]
· Fort McPherson-Tyler Perry studio deal lacks transparency, lawmaker says [Creative Loafing]
· Tyler Perry To Buy Large Portion Of Fort McPherson in Southwest Atlanta [WABE]