South Fulton County is in the throes of two major developments: Aerotropolis and the redevelopment of Fort McPherson. Both developments will enhance South Fulton’s economic landscape by generating white- and blue-collar jobs, and, as a byproduct, expanding development opportunities, retail and restaurant sites, and small business ventures in the area for years to come.
Aerotropolis, a project by Jacoby Group Inc., is a 130-acre mixed-use, environmentally-friendly development sited on the grounds of the former Ford Motor Company assembly plant in the City of Hapeville. Aerotropolis was so named due to its being adjacent to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The project is intended to become a 6.5 million-square-foot, business-intense district that includes office and retail space, restaurants and a hotel. Porsche Cars North America (PCNA), the first business to commit to Aerotropolis, is locating its U.S. headquarters on approximately 26 acres of the site, encompassing approximately 120,000-square-feet and housing up to 450 employees. “Our dream has always been to have a home of our own,” says Joseph Folz, General Counsel, PCNA. “We want a place where people can read, live and breathe Porsche and be able to drive Porsche cars.”
This is exactly what Aerotropolis is offering. Not only is PCNA relocating its Atlanta-based corporate offices to the South Fulton site. The company is moving its financial services and shared services companies from Chicago to Aerotropolis. More so, the new PCNA headquarters will pioneer its Porsche Experience Center, a handling circuit and off-road course for product demonstration and advanced driver training, in South Fulton. While Porsche operates similar Experience Centers in select global cities, this Center will be the first of its kind in the United States.
The track will be slightly under 2 miles in length and will include a handling course, skid pad, an auto cross area, and an off-road simulations that will display the capabilities of the Porsche Cayenne sports utility vehicle. The PCNA site will also include a classic Porsche museum and restoration center, as well as amenities for guests and employees such as restaurants, a fitness center, and a business center.
“We want to have a home where we can invite our business visitors or guests, dealers, customers and the community to experience what Porsche is all about,” Mr. Folz says. “This is intended to be a landmark facility for Atlanta and will be one of the most dramatic things people will see when flying into Atlanta,” adds Mr. Folz. PCNA evaluated 70 possible locations before settling on Aerotropolis. The site and track are expected to be complete by the end of 2013.
Also generating a great deal of interest in South Fulton is the 488-acre Fort McPherson locale. Previously a U.S. Army base, Fort McPherson was decommissioned in September 2011 by the Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.
Although still in the planning phase, one-third of the site would house the Georgia Science and Technology Park. This ground-breaking location would be an international center of innovation and discovery leveraging the region’s collective assets to improve human health and develop new sources of energy. Select major companies, non-profits, seven Georgia universities, and other related enterprises would come together to conduct collaborative research and further develop Georgia’s gold mine of knowledge in bioscience, the nation’s fasting growing industry.
The goal is to create a Science Park, Employment Center and Live, Work, Learn and Play community containing 3.5 million-square-feet of labs and office space, 1,747 units of residential development, and a campus-style collaborative environment to house Georgia’s core competencies in vaccines, infectious diseases, neurosciences and other targeted sciences.
Felker Ward, Chairman of the Fort McPherson Redevelopment Authority, sees the project as one day being akin to Research Triangle in North Carolina. Already the Fort McPherson Redevelopment Authority is in dialogue with pharmaceutical and biotech companies. “A pharmaceutical company with a core activity would be a good fit,” Mr. Ward states. Officials believe such a project will be successful because of Fort McPherson’s sheer size and the fact that it is located 10 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Federal, state and city agencies are expressing an interest in Fort McPherson’s redevelopment. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for one, has indicated that it plans to turn 10 acres into a healthcare campus that would provide primary care, mental health, dental, lab, radiology and audiology services for veterans. “That would be a significant beginning,” Mr. Ward remarks. The Fort McPherson Redevelopment Authority also has conversed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “We’re trying to interest them into [adding] a facility to the site,” he says.
The City of Atlanta is looking at parts of the property for a police, rescue and firefighting training academy. “Everything is still in the planning stages,” Mr. Ward emphasizes. Giving Fort McPherson a boost, however, Forest City-Cousins-Integral Team has been selected as the Master Developer for the project. “They will help with the planning and development,” he says. Many see a redeveloped Fort McPherson as breathing new economic life into an area of South Fulton County that has, in recent years, become depressed. “The area needs this project,” Mr. Ward says. The project will be a boost to the State of Georgia as well.
According to August 2010 estimates by Huntley Associates, within the first 10 years of development, the 5,000 new jobs at Fort McPherson will generate approximately $12 million in annual state income tax revenues. At build-out, 10,600 new jobs will be created and the state will collect $1.8 million in annual on-site sales taxes; $3.5 million per year in property tax revenues and $24 million in annual state income tax revenues. This would be good news for an area that has played such an integral role in the history of South Fulton County and the State of Georgia.