What is your relationship to Fort Mac?
When I became the state representative for District 58 in February of 2016, I had the opportunity to sit down with the other members of the delegation who care deeply about veterans’ affairs and see the connections between transportation, community development and historical preservation. We started to talk about the redevelopment of Fort McPherson, which, of course, is the oldest military installation in the state of Georgia, and my ears immediately perked up as soon as I read through House Bill 1129. I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of and bring back to the community.
The day that we got the bill passed, it was a celebration for us all. I’m happy that Fort McPherson Local Redevelopment Authority is up and running. It’s always a joy to come to the board meetings and listen to the proposals that will redevelop this important land.
What excites you most about the redevelopment of Fort Mac?
As the daughter of a Master Sergeant in the Marines, who served in the Vietnam War and was stationed down in Albany, GA before moving our family up to Atlanta where I grew up, I’ve always felt at home on military bases. I know that not only is the historical understanding [of Fort Mac] geared towards protecting the land, but it’s also about providing opportunities for the people. I think that this opportunity is an exciting one, because with the public-private partnership there will be opportunities for everyday people to reengage with this beautiful campus.
What would you most like to see happen with the redevelopment of Fort Mac?
As the proposals come in, I want there to be a transparent process so that community members understand what is happening to their neighborhood and once the proposals are accepted and moved forward on, I’m hopeful that there will be an understanding between the LRA and the possible developers that this is not just for the present, it’s for the past and the future, and we have to honor the legacy of those who have served here. We also have to create a sustainable way for others to engage with it in the future, meaning it should be accessible by transportation, specifically MARTA. The environment should be taken into deep consideration as well as there are solar and wind opportunities that I see present. We must also engage with youth, specifically, to hear from them. And in order to do that listening tour for the redevelopment, it will take financial capital. We are so thankful for the investment by the OEA (Office of Economic Adjustment) and hope that more grant opportunities will allow for us to create a walkable, bikeable Fort.
From your experience, what has the response from the community been?
Between Nov. 2015 and Feb. 2016, I spent considerable time in Sylvan Hills, Capitol View, Oakland City and almost every conversation I had included what would be happening at Fort McPherson. There was a deep fear that by the land being sold, their values were also being sold, but I commend Councilmember Sheperd for creating a community engagement subcommittee and keeping community leaders, the NPU system, schools, churches and community centers in the know. Because now the concern is not a fearful one. It is one of desire. People want to have a business here. They want to see a film here. Get a job here. The hopefulness that our community members feel as it relates to the redevelopment is inspiring.
For those who are not as engaged as you are, is there anything you would encourage them to do? Anything you’d like for them to know?
Now is the time to invest in Southwest. Now is the time to open your ears and eyes to the multifaceted opportunities to grow their trades as it relates to our connectivity, to highways, universities and a deep African American culture. I find it imperative that everyone gets on board!
Final thoughts: I’m really hopeful that the Authority will look for all angles to bridge any gaps between Tyler Perry Studios and the work that we’re going to do. I envision that the leadership of this authority will advocate for collaboration, and it is my goal to advocate at the state level for critical funding partnerships as we move forward.