Historic McPherson may become scientific, residential community
March 18, 2011
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga., (Army News Service, March 18, 2011) -- Since 2005 Fort McPherson has been on the Department of Defense's Base Realignment And Closure list of installations to shut down, and what's planned in its place may become a boon to the community, Atlanta and the local economy, McPherson authorities said.
The central focus of this planned community will be a science and technology center with the tentative name "Georgia Institute for Global Health."
Units and commands have been relocating from Fort McPherson since October 2010, and it is now set to be vacant of military and government personnel by September, leaving prime real estate four miles from the heart of Atlanta available for redevelopment.
Jack Sprott, the executive director of McPherson's Planning Local Redevelopment Authority, explained that the current vision for the Army post is to become a "live, work, play" community.
"We've been working since 2005, and we think we're going in the right direction," Sprott said.
Established in 1885, the base housed German prisoners during World War I, was home to a general hospital and welcomed President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his visits to Warm Springs. Forty of Fort McPherson's buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the proposal for the base's future will incorporate that history with newer construction.
Sprott explained a sizable institute there would not only further scientific research and developments in the Atlanta area, but would also bring opportunities for employment.
"This facility is going to become a storefront for collaboration," Sprott said.
Other portions of McPherson's planned re-purposing include residential areas, a historic district, which could contain both private homes and shopping boutiques, and the current golf course, which may eventually be converted into an outdoor event space, he said. Sprott explained the area's focus won't be on shopping, but hopes it will become a "hip and cool," place to live, with another proposed grocery store and school adding to the community feel.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has also showed interested in taking over McPherson's Lawrence Joel Health Clinic and converting it to a VA clinic.
"This is the plan that the community told us they want," Sprott said. "They are very excited about this development."
Sprott explained that as part of BRAC law, the Local Redevelopment Authority is tasked with going to the surrounding residents to ask them what they want to replace a closing military base.
"The Department of Defense recognizes that by closing an installation, there is an economic impact," said Glynn Ryan, the Fort McPherson garrison BRAC officer.
Sprott explained that since 2005, many community meetings were held in which local residents were encouraged to attend and share their ideas, and the current plan is a culmination of those ideas.
"We've got a huge responsibility on our hands," Sprott said of creating a comprehensive community that will thrive in the military's absence.
"Fort McPherson's capacity to create change in the immediate area is substantial," reads the final draft of the Fort McPherson Outreach and Land Use Plan. "Essentially, at the build-out of redevelopment, there will be a completely new market situation in the area."
However, Sprott noted, the current plan still has to be blessed off by the Army, as they decide what will happen to the land they leave behind. He also explained it's estimated that it will take 30 years for the current proposal to reach its final stage.
"We are still in negotiations with the Army," Sprott said, noting that if buyers are interested in making an offer on properties on Fort McPherson, they should contact the Local Redevelopment Authority.
Meanwhile, the estimated 5,800 military and civilian Fort McPherson employees have been relocating in groups to other bases such as Fort Bragg, N.C., Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.
Ryan said he believes the base will meet the September deadline to have all units vacate, but noted moving delays are often due to behind-schedule building.
"There was a lot of construction required to prepare the gaining installations," Ryan said, explaining that new buildings such as those that will house U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command on Fort Bragg were new construction.
One of the challenges of taking part in a BRAC move, said Ryan, is having to support tenant units while also preparing to leave.
"We've been working since 2005 to prepare for the move, but still have had to provide service," he said.
Ryan also noted that about 500 Fort McPherson garrison employees will lose their jobs when the base closes in September, as the garrison is not re-locating. It's dissolving.
Yet, Ryan believes the new development will improve the local community, explaining that this scenario will benefit local residents.
For more information on the proposed redevelopment, or to see a copy of the Fort McPherson Outreach and Land Use Plan, visit www.mcphersonredevelopment.com.