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The fate of Georgia's forts

The seemingly losing battle to save four Georgia military bases - and 6,000 military and civilian jobs - has state and local officials debating what to do with the properties, should the bases close.

Two of the bases are in metro Atlanta.

According to Forest Park's Mayor Chuck Hall, several developers, including Cousins Properties, Atlanta's largest real estate company, have had preliminary talks with city officials about proposed plans for turning the 1,500-acre Fort Gillem into a mixed-use development.

Other redevelopment plans are under consideration for Fort McPherson, the 488-acre compound in East Point that's been around since the 1830s.

But the potential deals concern some citizens, according to state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, who says he's worried about "wealthy developers ... trolling the waters to do a land grab."

Members of the federal Base Realignment and Closure commission "already said they don't want this to be a deal for 'Buckhead developers,'" Fort says. He claims the city of Atlanta is more concerned with sealing a deal with developers than fending off the closings or helping the thousands of south side families who might suffer from job losses.

But redevelopment could be a plus for those communities, says David Goldberg, a spokesman for Smart Growth America, a nonprofit agency that pushes for quality-of-life land use; after all, mixed-use developments could create jobs that otherwise might not be replaced.

"The closing of the bases can be a wonderful opportunity to reimagine the south side," Goldberg says.

But he adds that redeveloping the neighborhoods successfully will require a big-time commitment from the city - a process that's been an uphill battle with other major projects, such as the Belt Line, a proposed 22-mile loop of light rail that would circle Atlanta.

The federal commission will begin its deliberation in July and will make its decision regarding Georgia's bases by Sept. 8.??



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