The land and buildings will belong to the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, the base’s manager since the army decamped in September 2011, by early next year.
Its price tag is still being negotiated with the U.S. Department of Defense.
“This property is transferring to us, but it’s not going to be for free,” Jack Sprott, executive director of the authority, said at last week’s meeting of its community engagement subcommittee.
Operating on a $10 million budget, the authority budgeted $5 million for the first down payment to the Army and infrastructure like roads, sewers and sidewalks.
James “Mac” McCormick, authority director of development and operations, said his task includes creating a grid pattern out of lanes built for military vehicles.
“It’s a snake,” he said about one road. “Cobb is the straightest street I have. I’m very happy about that street.”
Subcommittee chair and Atlanta City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd said making the property pedestrian-friendly is vital.
“We want to make this a walkable community,” she said.
The open house will reveal the base’s challenges and opportunities through the windshield of a MARTA bus.
“There are going to be tours conducted,” event chair Dianese Howard said. “The tours are going to run every hour on the half-hour, so we should have about three tours that are going to operate that day.”
Visitors will ride past available buildings including barracks, a hotel and a courthouse.
One of those structures will be the commissary, a grocery and sundries store which was the subject of a recent rally by veterans and resolutions from local governments, including Fulton County and the city of Atlanta, sent to members of Congress.
“It’s not over. We’re still lobbying,” Sheperd said, quoting authority chair and military veteran Felker Ward from a previous meeting. “But until something happens, unless something changes tremendously within the next month, we will close on the 28th.”
Sheperd said she empathized with the 50,000 to 300,000 commissary customers, many of whom are senior citizens on fixed incomes.
“It’s totally unacceptable for veterans who served our country to have to drive four hours — two hours there and two hours back – to go to the commissary at Fort Benning,” she said.
Sprott said the authority offered to let the commissary stay as long as possible but got turned down by the Defense Commissary Agency.
“The people at DeCA, which is the commissary commission, they knew that even after we got ownership of the property we would welcome them to continue to use that building,” he said. “But they made the decision, obviously higher up in the administration, to close.”
Sprott said the authority has to stand aside when the Army pulls out the coolers and shelves after the store closes Saturday.
“It’s the Army’s property. When they start moving out, we can only just sit back and watch,” he said. “We would certainly do anything we could, but we don’t have any power in that regard.”
If you go
What: Fort McPherson open house
When: Oct. 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: 1794 Walker Ave., Atlanta, 30310