The Electric Works redevelopment project has cleared its largest public funding hurdle. The Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board, which oversees the county’s food and beverage tax, unanimously approved $45 million in bonds in a Nov. 6 vote for redeveloping the former General Electric campus in downtown Fort Wayne.
The redevelopment of the site has passed several funding hurdles over the past few months with lease revenue bonds from the CIB being the largest component of public funding allocated to the project.
The CIB vote follows the Sept. 10 approval by the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission of the $65 million public funding plan for the $220-plus million public-private west campus development.
In addition to the $45 million in bonds, $10 million has been allocated from the city’s Legacy Fund, $3.5 million each from both city and county income taxes, and $3 million in loans from the CIB and the county for remediation efforts.
RTM Ventures, the developer for Electric Works, reacted favorably to the latest CIB vote.
“In addition to securing local investment, today’s vote is important for another reason: it strengthens our ability as a development team to meet the thresholds and benchmarks necessary to begin construction,” Josh Parker, partner with RTM Ventures, said in a statement. “By confirming local support for the project, the CIB — along with Mayor Henry, city council and county commissioners — clearly communicates to businesses, institutions, and investors that Fort Wayne is primed and ready for this project.
While the CIB voted 7-0 for the project, some board members did share some concerns about the project.
“In over 30 years of public involvement, whether elected or appointed, this is the single most difficult decision I’ve ever been confronted with because of the size and the scope of the project,” Ben Eisbart, board vice president said during the board discussion.
Eisbart also cautioned the developers to meet the terms of the agreement.
“Meet those deadlines, otherwise we’ll be back at this table and that’s not going to be pleasant,” he said.Other board members recognized there are many unanswered questions with the project.
“This is not a perfect project. There are a lot of questions, a lot of things that need to be resolved, but you know you can’t come up with answers until you define the questions,” board member Donald B. Steininger said during the board discussion. “We’ve got to get started before we can know where we’re headed.”
Several other board members suggested the project was worth the risk.
Board member Tim Pape emphasized the project’s return on investment potential citing increased property values in neighborhoods near the redevelopment site and costs associated with the site remaining a brownfield in the future.
“I don’t think we’ve paid enough attention that we’re converting brownfield if this doesn’t happen,” Pape said during the board discussion. “The cost of doing anything has been estimated at $20-40 million just to clean the site, just to bring the buildings down.”
After the Nov. 6 vote, closing is expected to be on or before June 30, 2019. Per the agreement, no money is to be spent until all public and private money from all sources is closed for the project. RTM Ventures must also meet certain lease milestones in square footage by the end of 2018 and by June 30, 2019 in order to continue the process.