Before year’s end, Southwest Atlanta’s aging U.S. Army base, formerly known as Fort McPherson, could start coming alive with restaurants, retail, and other commercial activity, according to those leading its redevelopment.
The new name is Fort Mac, and the project is expected to activate 145 acres of the property—most of the 500-acre former base is now owned by film mogul Tyler Perry—by way of an estimated $760 million redevelopment effort.
“Shovels in the ground start this July, but could slip back to the beginning of August,” said Stephen Macauley, principal of Fort Mac’s master developer Macauley Investments.
The firm is still ironing out details of the master development agreement with the Fort Mac Local Redevelopment Authority, a government agency formed by the State of Georgia to oversee Fort McPherson’s rebirth.
Once that’s signed, construction of the massive project’s first phase should commence, Macauley told Curbed Atlanta.
“We have 90 percent of the project (all three phases) under letter of intent or memorandum of understanding with some of the best in class developers in Atlanta, for the respective vertical uses,” he said, adding that his team has been “very lucky with the fundraising and financing of the project.”
The $25 million Phase 1, which would span roughly 24 acres, would include what’s called the “demonstration project,” a mix of residences, retail, arts spaces, and more.
One of the first things people will likely notice in coming months, though, is the removal of the unsightly fence lining Lee Street, between the Oakland City and Lakewood-Fort McPherson MARTA stops, and Campbellton Road.
The demonstration project would feature, among other things, mixed-income development in partnership with Place Properties, such as apartments and townhomes.
“But they’re not your typical townhomes,” Macauley said.
The residences would be inspired by a model used in Dorset, England by The Prince’s Foundation for Community Building, Fort Mac’s master planner and architect.
“From the outside, every townhome looked identical, but every other townhome was not a townhome,” he said. “It included a lobby and then four to six units of mixed-income residences.”
Phase 1 is also expected to deliver arts studios and live-work places for local creatives.
Also, My Amazing Team—which bills itself as “a high-energy hybrid of creative agency, tech startup, and strategic consultancy”—would be tasked with redeveloping five historic buildings on site into, among other things, corporate training facilities for companies like Coca-Cola, allowing people “to get away from intown and into a cool, creative environment.”
My Amazing Team is expected to turn other historic buildings into a performing arts center, a “very high-end private club,” a restaurant, gin house, and coffee shop.
Other historic buildings would be transformed into supportive housing and job training facilities for formerly homeless people through the Georgia Works program, officials have said.
Some of Phase 1’s commercial offerings are slated to open by the end of 2019, and the first residential units would start construction at the end of 2020, Macauley said.
The second phase of Fort Mac’s revamp is scheduled to kick off within months of Phase 1’s launch.
The potentially $600 million second phase would create the “Market District” with about 2 million square feet of use and an emphasis on housing of all sorts.
Expect for-sale residences ranging from the mid-$200,000s to the $400,000s, as well as some 1,500 apartments. (Yes, the scale is ambitious.)
Twenty percent of those rental units would be earmarked for affordable housing, 40 percent would be priced at market rate, and the rest would be workforce housing.
There would also be a European-style food court based on concepts found in Milan and London.
The Market District would also house the southeast regional headquarters of the Food and Drug Administration—which would bring 350 jobs to the area—in a 345,000-square-foot building that once held the Army’s Forces Command operations.
The third and final phase of Fort Mac’s development would be largely focused on agriculture, featuring an aquaponics farm adjacent to an urban farm, a city park, catering business, events facility, and school site.
It would also bring more multifamily homes made for households with children and other small-scale residential.
And, ultimately, the project would connect to a spur trail of the Beltline, which recently secured all the land needed to link Fort Mac to Pittsburgh.
Macauley said the Fort Mac LRA agreement should be signed in the next few weeks, allowing work on so many redevelopment plans to move forward.