Perspectives in Architecture: Fort McPherson is forging a vibrant future

A rendering of the revitalized Fort McPherson.

In April 1889, the nearly completed Fort McPherson was touted in an Atlanta Constitution editorial as “… one of the best equipped and most complete military reservations in the country.”

Under the thoughtful planning of Captain Joshua West Jacobs, 188-acres of undeveloped land, then outside the city limits of Atlanta, was transformed into a premiere campus for military training and comfort. Gustav Friebus, a government architect who drafted construction drawings for the Washington Monument, designed some of the finely crafted homes assigned to officers and their families at the military base.

A historic photo of the main gate at Fort Mac in 1919.

From the Spanish American War (1898) to the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991), Fort McPherson served the military in various capacities: as a military hospital and training center for American soldiers, as a camp for World War I war prisoners, and as a command post during the Persian Gulf War for all ground forces. Named in honor of fallen Union Major General James McPherson, the military base expanded to include nearly 150 buildings on a 486-acre site. After the closure announcement in 2005, this post was officially shuttered in 2011.

Brian Hooker, the Executive Director for the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority (Fort Mac LRA), has directed wide-ranging initiatives to redevelop Fort McPherson site since 2014. He describes Fort McPherson as “one of the most successful properties in the 2005 BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) round.”

The post hospital built in 1889.

Phase I of the redevelopment plans entailed the purchase of 330 acres of the former military base by producer and actor Tyler Perry in 2015 as the location for his movie and television studios. Anchoring a portion of Fort McPherson with the studios has brought thousands of production jobs and a $100 million investment into Southwest Atlanta.

Master Developer Macauley Investments is coordinating Phase II redevelopment efforts for the remaining 145 acres with four priorities for proposed uses and programs: creative arts and technology, health and wellness, food and agriculture, and education, training and entrepreneurship. Plans call for the removal of the security wall at the Lee Street entrance to create easy access from Fort McPherson to MARTA and for a trail connection to the Atlanta BeltLine.

Another rendering of the revitalized Fort Mac.

Partnerships with community groups and entities, such Invest Atlanta and the Georgia Film Academy, have the potential to revitalize Fort Mac as a vibrant destination with affordable housing, historic preservation, shopping, dining, and diverse employment opportunities. Through the ambitious work of Fort Mac LRA and its partners, the former military base that richly benefited our nation from 1885 to 2011 will deeply benefit its surrounding community for generations.

 

Melody L. Harclerode, FAIA promotes significant natural, historical, and cultural sites as a non-profit leader, architect, and writer.

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