While big news in our state is focused on not getting Amazon and political awkwardness, progress on the ground keeps marching forward. Plans were filed with the state for a massive redevelopment of the 145-acre campus of the Fort McPherson property in downtown Atlanta.
The project is massive especially considering the 145 acres sits 3.5 miles from the heart of downtown Atlanta. Plans include a half a million square feet of office space, a school, 235,000 square feet of retail, 46,000 square feet of restaurants, a hotel and 2,800 residential units.
The entire site would be developed to be on a street-grid that would include a network of bicycle and pedestrian trails. The master planner of the site said the intention is to make the project a “destination for entertainment, film, gaming and music” with a way to “feature the performing and visual arts, along with attracting technology companies.”
Fort McPherson closed in 2005 and at that time was actually 375 acres. But 330 acres were sold to Tyler Perry, who turned it into Tyler Perry Studios. He converted the existing buildings into studios, built a headquarters and uses 300 acres of greenspace for movie and television production. Movies that have been filmed there include “Acrimony,” “Nobody’s Fool” and “A Madea Family Funeral.”
Current shows in production include “The Haves and the Have Nots,” “If Loving You Is Wrong” and “The Paynes.”
Fort McPherson’s roots as a military base actually go back to 1835 when it was used as a Confederate Army base during the Civil War. It became an official U.S. Army base in 1885. During World War I it was used as a camp for Imperial German Navy prisoners of war and as a training site for the Active Army and Georgia National Guard. Active duty soldiers remained at Fort McPherson until its recent closing.
The 145 acres that is being considered for redevelopment have about 70 buildings, some dating back to the late 1800s, which could be incorporated into the new development.
The history of the property and the old buildings on it have intrigued developers since its closing. Some of the old brick buildings are what many new developments are trying to emulate today.
Real history is one of the main things that make places like Canton Street in Roswell and Ponce City Market in Atlanta so popular. People seem to love the richness of character that comes from the old buildings and the history of things that happened there.
While it may not be a conscience thought, the richness of the atmosphere isn’t lost on those that frequent restaurants, bars and shops in these century-old buildings.
Patrons instinctively know that the old walls and wood trusses have hosted 100 years’ worth of customers and styles and technologies. It is important to retain those old styles and buildings, but is also important to put them to good use.
I live near Canton Street in Roswell. What makes it so special is the fact that when you walk down it, many of the buildings on either side of the street are 100 or more years old. It is charming and quaint and in some ways a street frozen in time.
The city is battling itself, walking the fine line between wanting to capitalize on the street’s success by adding more buildings, versus wanting to preserve the old buildings and charm so as not to kill what makes the street so unique and popular in the first place.
The Fort McPherson project doesn’t appear to have that conundrum. The new project will be massive and will certainly dwarf the buildings on the site. But having that history and those buildings will certainly add to the charm and marketability of the new project.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group