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Friday, August 8, 2014

Tyler Perry-Fort McPherson deal advances

Perry would build as many as 16 studios on the property if deal closes
  • Thomas Wheatley
  • Perry would build as many as 16 studios on the property if deal closes
Fort McPherson, the former military base that was first slated to become a bioscience hub, took one step closer today to becoming Tyler Perry's newest entertainment complex.

The McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, the civilian board that oversees the former military base, today voted 8-1 to sign a memorandum of understanding with Tyler Perry. Under that deal, the filmmaker would agree to purchase 330 acres of the massive property in southwest Atlanta.

The city would retain for redevelopment and greenspace 144 acres - which Board Chairman Felker Ward noted was roughly the size of Atlantic Station - along Campbellton Road and Lee Street, plus the base's Commons. The city would also own part of the property that provides homeless services, a military requirement. That transfer from the army to the city has yet to be completed.

Mayor Kasim Reed, who Perry said personally reached out to him in an attempt to convince him from moving some of his production work to Douglas County, told the large crowd that the project would, in addition to helping stabilize the community, help bring jobs to Atlanta and fuel the booming film industry that contributes billions of dollars each year to Georgia's economy. City officials expect that Perry's project will add more than 8,000 new jobs to Atlanta, plus the relocation of 350 jobs.

Under the plan, Perry would build either 15 or 16 sound stages on the property. He joked to reporters afterward that he's ready to start building them on Oct. 15, when the filmmaker hopes to close on the property. Some will be used for his projects and others will be rented out to other productions. His current facility near Greenbriar Mall, Perry told the board and residents attending the meeting, was over capacity.

Some community members had recently protested the deal, arguing that the deal was brokered without community input and essentially rendered years of public meetings and community engagement sessions meaningless. Board member Ayasha Khanna voted no because she thinks the deal should be made as part of a larger plan.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, who yesterday chided the city and authority for a lack of transparency over the Perry deal, said the MOU was for "a piece of land the city doesn't [yet] have." He also critiqued talk about community benefits taking place in the future when, he argues, they should have taken before.

Reed, who jousted with Fort most recently over the proposed Atlanta Falcons stadium, said criticisms about a lack of transparency were "laughable."

"Anytime you have a deal involving real estate, there's a level of confidentiality involved," Reed said.

Original plans envisioned the campus becoming a bioscience center. But groups that would have participated in the project never materialized. Earlier this year, one of the key partners in the mixed-use deal dropped out. Left vacant, Reed said, "city would have carried an asset that, if no one were here, would deteriorate rapidly."

More to come.

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