The city of Fort Wayne on April 28 highlighted continued progress with current downtown development projects, but emphasized the challenges the city is faced with when additional projects are proposed.
Over the past decade, downtown revitalization efforts have resulted in nearly $1 billion of investment, the city reported.
City leaders also have to deal with the complexity of projects and how some proposed developments sometimes don’t work out. Various factors include the need for additional financial resources and making sure taxpayers are protected through public-private partnerships. Protecting public money was among the concerns that led to Electric Works receiving numerous extensions for the developer to get financing together for the $286 million project. Eventually, Tim Ash, CEO of Fort Wayne-based Ash Brokerage, signed on as a partner in RTM Ventures, the project’s developer, and the Model Group became a co-developer. Now, the public can see from Broadway the work being done to turn the former General Electric factory into a multi-use complex with schools, retail shops, restaurants, businesses and eventually, housing.
Risk to taxpayers
Recently, a development team proposed a mixed-use project for the High Street area near the St. Marys riverfront. “Conceptually, it’s a promising project, but the developers’ list of requests presented to the City of Fort Wayne were outside of the scope of what the City has done in the past and placed the balance of risk more on taxpayers than the developer,” the city said. The public-private partnership was moving too far to the public side and the city already has a number of projects already underway or close to being started with available public funding set aside for those initiatives.
“The City of Fort Wayne will continue to pursue effective public-private partnerships to stimulate job creation and private investment in the City, but our City leadership has a responsibility to review these potential partnerships judiciously to prevent overexposure of risk to taxpayer dollars,” Nancy Townsend, director, city of Fort Wayne’s Community Development Division, said in a news release. “We are excited about the list of projects in the works for the City and will continue our efforts to bring in more jobs, investments, and enhance the quality of life in Fort Wayne through projects that make good financial sense for our citizens and taxpayers.”
The city has these current projects:
• The Riverfront at Promenade Park broke ground in February. The $88 million development is the first private investment along the riverfront and will include housing, a parking garage, and office and retail space.
• Construction has started at Electric Works and will serve as an important economic driver and quality of life offering, and Do it Best is in the process of moving their international headquarters to the campus.
• The Bradley is scheduled to open this summer as a 124-room boutique-style hotel at the corner of Main and Harrison streets.
• The Ashberry project will be home to the corporate headquarters of STAR Financial Bank, and the $43 million development will provide commercial and retail space and public parking.
Recently completed projects:
• Promenade Park opened in 2019 as the first phase of riverfront development.
• The $35 million redevelopment of The Landing offers housing and commercial and retail spaces.
Projects in the works:
• Design details, construction documents, and bidding for phase two of riverfront development will be completed this year with construction anticipated in 2022. There will also be more public space to complement Promenade Park.
• The Lofts at Headwaters Park will begin later this year. The $67 million project will feature apartments, a parking garage, and office and retail space next to Club Soda.
• A memorandum of understanding is in place for a development on the North River site. It’s a proposal exceeding $150 million and calls for a professional soccer stadium, fieldhouse, event center, and hotel. Restaurants, residential, office and public spaces as well as parking are included.