$1.7 million riverfront design contract OK’d
DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette
In a 6-2 vote Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council approved a $1.7 million contract for riverfront design, engineering development, construction documents, project bidding and construction administration.
The contract with Design Collaborative will be financed from the $6 million previously approved from the city’s Legacy Fund for the first phase of development. The contract was originally scheduled for a vote last week, but was held because of concerns raised by Councilman Michael Barranda, R-at large. Barranda noted there was no agreement or process that guaranteed funds raised by the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne would be used for this phase of riverfront development.
There is now a memorandum of understanding between the Board of Park Commissioners – which is governing this part of the process as it involves the creation of new public space – and the Community Foundation, Parks Director Al Moll told the council.
As part of that agreement, the Community Foundation agreed to provide $1.556 million to the Parks and Recreation Department for Phase 1 of the project.
Phase 1 involves the construction of a new public space near the intersection of Superior and Harrison streets.
The total Phase 1 project cost is estimated at about $20 million. The Community Foundation has pledged a total of $3 million, including $1 million in matching funds from the Lillie Endowment, toward riverfront development efforts.
Under the memorandum of understanding, an advisory committee will be formed to guide the planning and implementation process and the parks department and Community Foundation will partner on fundraising efforts in the future.
The nine-member advisory committee will be comprised of two members of the Board of Park Commissioners, two representatives from the Community Foundation, someone from AWS who can weigh in accessibility issues, a city council member, and three community members, Moll said.
Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, and Paul Ensley, R-1st, voted against the contract. Barranda was absent Tuesday. Arp said he thinks the project looks beautiful and is happy with the job the parks department has done to manage the project.
“The only reason I’m voting no is the lack of price discovery in determining the contract that we’re actually voting on today,” Arp said. “But that’s not to reflect on the overall project.”
Though he voted to approve the contract, Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, warned that future funding for the project may be hard to come by.
“When financing is finally rolled out, it will be sobering to note that the Legacy Fund won’t have enough money to pay for the first phase,” Jehl said.
Referencing a document projected onto the meeting room screens, Jehl estimated the fund’s cash on hand at about $37.2 million.
But with existing commitments, a $3.2 million appropriation up for consideration by the Legacy Joint Funding Committee in September and $1.8 million recommended by the Housing and Neighborhood Development Services Board, Jehl estimated that only about $9 million will remain.
Jehl also expressed concerns that the Regional Cities Initiative may already be running out of funding. Officials with northeast Indiana’s Regional Development Authority have said they are afraid that at the current rate of funding approvals, the available money could dry up by March 31, 2017.
Though he didn’t know the exact figures, Moll told the council Tuesday a Legacy Fund request for the project’s first phase could be as high as $10 million. Moll noted that the exact amount will depend on the amount of private funding that can be raised.
However, Jehl said he decided to vote for the contract because “obstructing it or slowing it up further is simply not an option,” despite a lack of plans that detail riverfront features previously promoted, such as the ability to dine, drink and live along the riverfront.
“At this point, what we proved tonight has no feasibility plans to make sure there is land available to do so or that it is feasible to acquire that land,” Jehl said.