Forest Park formally approves URA, redevelopment plan

Authority will oversee Fort Gillem work

FOREST PARK — Officials in Forest Park made their Urban Redevelopment Authority official Wednesday with back-to-back meetings that served more as formalities than anything else.

The city council first voted unanimously to officially create the URA, whose primary job will be to oversee the redevelopment of 778 acres of the former Fort Gillem property, and to adopt the city’s urban redevelopment plan.

“That now gives you the authorities that you need to have as the Urban Redevelopment Authority to start taking action and doing things on behalf of the city,” authority Executive Director Fred Bryant told URA board members.

The city expects to finish signing off on the purchase in the coming weeks and Bryant said a “celebration” has been scheduled for 11 a.m. May 2 to ceremonially commemorate the purchase.

The city has been working on purchasing the land from the U.S. Army for years. The federal government announced plans to close Fort Gillem in 2005 as part of a round of base closures that also claimed nearby Fort McPherson. The First Army moved from Fort Gillem to Rock Island, Ill. in 2011.

An estimated 400 acres from the former base will become part of the city in the fall, and city officials are already in deep talks with a Fortunate 500 company to move onto part of the site. Officials are currently referring to the company by the code name “Project Jasper” because they have not finalized an agreement with the company and fear it will pull out of the deal if its name is released before documents are signed.

The authority board also voted 3-0-1, with Felicia Davis abstaining, to grant City Manager Frank Brandon authority to sign certain documents including a termination fee letter, conflict waivers and a fee agreement. Brandon is the board’s chairman.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority will replace the Forest Park/Fort Gillem Implementation Local Redevelopment Authority which is expected to vote to disband itself and transfer its work to the URA in the coming weeks.