Action Plan for the Fort McPherson Community

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Akash, Rati
Adriaenssens, Zachary
Ball, Kia
Caceda, Leslie S.
Campo, Carlos
Faulkner, Chris
Knabel, Carolyn
Lee, Jenna E.
Macías, Moki
Murray, Drew
Prater, Susan
Ram, Neela
Ram, Ruma
Rattray, Andrea
Wansley, Stephanie
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Fort McPherson army base is situated in the South Atlanta area and borders East Point. It connects two MARTA rail transit stations and is bordered by three arterial streets. After being targeted for closure in 2005 under the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program, there have been several ongoing efforts to determine how the base will be redeveloped for future use after the army departs in 2011. Beyond the walls are low density, mostly single family neighborhoods with a diversity of people and a rich history intertwined with the base. At present these neighborhoods are facing stresses brought on by the base closing and speculation over its future on one hand and on the other by the real estate collapse, with foreclosures, derelict absentee owners, and boarded up homes with damage evident on nearly every block. The neighborhoods have strengths to build upon, some attractive to speculators, yet are challenged by uncertainties that range from displacement and gentrification to further deterioration and disinvestment. In Atlanta, these neighborhoods, mostly African-American, with a wide range of incomes from low to high, lie in Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU) S, R, and X, and in Wards A and B of the city of East Point. Language in the Local Redevelopment Authority’s (LRA) vision and principle statements seem to embrace benefit to the local community as core values with such language as: on the vision side, “Economically uplift surrounding communities...;” or “Enhance community services and promote life-long learning;” or “Develop through collaborative process;” or on the principle side, “Province connections to the surrounding neighborhoods;” or “Develop with respect to the local community;” or “Create a place for everyone.” Yet their actual work has ignored community needs, priorities, and aspirations. Their sole focus has been how to maximize the redevelopment of the base, an inward directed effort that perpetuates the base property as an island, whose relevance is city or region wide, not support for the community in whose midst it resides. Responding to growing community concern, Georgia StandUp, a community based think tank and action organization, spearheaded the move to create a community-driven plan to build community benefits into any base redevelopment strategy. Convening diverse representatives and elected officials from all the affected communities, Georgia StandUp, supported by Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning studios, have conducted a thorough analysis of the problems and opportunities, resulting in this action plan. Its goal is to facilitate a partnership relationship with the LRA resources are tapped to support community improvement objectives while also boosting the timely transformation of the base property into a fully integrated contributor to the overall communities’ positive futures. Yet there is a long way to go. In a nutshell, the question that needs to be addressed is why shouldn’t this publicly controlled and funded development initiative bend its effort toward improving the larger community that sits all around it? This action plan identifies issues and opportunities and proposes actions to do just that. It suggests a cohesive vision and usable framework for the communities to use in influencing the many approval steps that lie before the LRA in its quest for redevelopment. The work, summarized from the full report in this executive summary, addresses that interim plan; land use, zoning, and urban design; transportation; jobs and economic development; housing; parks and environment; culture, history, and education; and public health and public safety. Still in the throes of the economic downturn, the LRA is amending the redevelopment plan it approved in 2007. That plan anticipated a bio-science based research center/complex sponsored in part by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia as the generator for a mixed use development program through public private partnerships. Using a modified grid street systems with defined anchored blocks, the plan directed high density development to the middle of the east side of the property, while preserving its historic core to the north and Considerable Park and open space activities to the west. Housing developments were to be implemented with the highest densities of core mixed use tapering down to the single family scale at the edges.
Georgia Stand-Up and the Ford Foundation provided the inspiration, the opportunity, and the support essential to conduct this Fort McPherson studio. The students, the studio professor, and the School of City and Regional Planning thank Georgia Stand-Up, its Policy Institute, and neighborhood leaders for identifying the need, supporting the work in all its aspects, and following through to influence a fairer, more community-focused outcome for this military base closing process. The School could not have undertaken this activity without the generous financial support of the Ford Foundation and, in equal measure, its moral support for considering this effort worthwhile
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