ATLANTA - When the U.S. Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure Commission announced that Fort McPherson in Atlanta would be closed, state and local officials moved swiftly to come up with plans to keep the sprawling military base from becoming an eyesore in the neighborhood.
The result is legislation that creates the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority. The state agency will have the power to issue revenue bonds to cover the costs of projects that will be undertaken as part of the base's planned transformation into a mixed-use community. Officials also hope to create a Bio-Science Center as part of the redevelopment effort.
The bill has been passed out of the Georgia House and Senate and it now awaits the signature of Gov. Sonny Perdue, who is expected to sign it.
Officials say it's too early to comment on how bonds for the redevelopment effort could be structured, or even how much debt could be issued.
The 488-acre base - to be closed in 2011 - is located in the Campbellton Road Tax Allocation District. Local officials are determining how much TAD debt could be issued based on anticipated increased property values that would result from development of planned projects.
Jack Sprott, executive director of the McPherson Planning Local Redevelopment Authority, explained that the Planning LRA has been responsible for preparing for the revamping of Fort McPherson, fondly known as Fort Mac since becoming the first permanent Army installation in the Southeast more than 100 years ago. The planning authority will gradually be phased out.
"The passage of this bill was absolutely necessary for the redevelopment of Fort McPherson to go forward," Sprott said. As a planning agency, the McPherson LRA was not allowed to issue debt. The new legislation allows for that, as well as other powers, such as the ability to acquire land.
Officials also are closely watching proposed legislation that would allow voters to determine if they want school district dollars to be a source of revenues for TAD bonds. The state Supreme Court ruled in February that such use was unconstitutional. That stripped TADs in the state, including the Campbellton TAD, of school tax revenues. It also forced city officials - as well as the McPherson Planning LRA - to be prepared to not have those revenues at their disposal if and when they are allowed to move forward with the projects, Sprott said.
Redevelopment proposals call for about 4,600 single-family homes, as well as space for hotels, offices, retailers and parks. Plans also call for the Bio-Science Center.
Sprott has worked with Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and others in hammering out a plan that would make the best use of the Fort McPherson land. He said the bill's passage will allow the new authority to take ownership of a 115-acre parcel to be used for development of the Bio-Science Center.
The facility would be called the Global Bio-Science Center and would be a public/private development led by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. More than two million square feet of office and lab space would be created.