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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Major developer steps away from Fort McPherson, Downtown transit terminal projects

A-TEN-HUT: Local community advocates want the bases redevelopment to actually help the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • A-TEN-HUT: Local community advocates want the base's redevelopment to actually help the surrounding neighborhoods.
A major national firm behind two massive redevelopment efforts that could drastically alter southwest Atlanta and Downtown has ended its involvement with both multi-billion dollar projects.

Forest City Enterprises, a lead developer behind Fort McPherson, has backed out of its role to turn the former southwest Atlanta military base into a mixed-use, walkable community.

McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Jack Sprott tells CL that Forest City, which was working on the 480-acre project with Atlanta-based Integral Group and Cousins Properties, first said it would back out Fort McPherson in November to "refocus on core cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C."

But the firm, which had committed early to the project but never signed a formal letter agreement, officially severed ties with the redevelopment efforts today.

A Forest City Enterprises spokesman told CL in a text that the Cleveland-based company is "phasing out fee consulting projects as opposed to develop/own/manage projects. [We will] still have a [metro Atlanta] presence at Stonecrest."

Said Larry Gellerstedt, president and CEO of Cousins Properties, in a statement: "Fort McPherson and the Georgia Multimodal Passenger Terminal in the Gulch in downtown Atlanta will be two of the largest redevelopment projects the Atlanta market has seen in a long time, and Cousins Properties, as a local developer, is committed in the long-term to helping both the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority and the Georgia Department of Transportation see these projects through to their successful completion. While all of the pieces may not be in place yet, Cousins is here to serve the Redevelopment Authority when they are ready to move forward as well as GDOT in the Gulch."

Forest City Enterprises recently ended its involvement with the estimated proposed $1.5 billion multimodal passenger terminal envisioned for "the Gulch." Once complete, the Downtown development would essentially transform the 120-acre expanse of parking lots and railyards into a brand new section of the city anchored by a sleek bus and (one day, we hope) train terminal surrounded by commercial properties, residential buildings, and a new street grid.

A Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman tonight said that the developer, also with Integral and Cousins Properties, had finished its work creating a proposed financial and governance plan for the ambitious project.

GDOT and multiple partners involved with the Downtown passenger terminal are still working on the environmental plan, which could be completed later this year.

Looking ahead, Sprott says that Fort McPherson's master redevelopment plans largely remain untouched. The former military base's redevelopment authority are now "in the preliminary steps" of finding a new developer to continue effort toward building the proposed mixed-use, walkable community. Earlier this month, Mayor Kasim Reed said that massive southwest Atlanta project would help solve the city's affordable housing needs.

We've reached out to Reed's office and spokespersons for Integral for comment. Once we hear back, we'll post an update.

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