As Legacy committee prepares for Electric Works vote, developers plan public forum for next Tuesday
By Kevin Leininger | News-Sentinel
The next several days could be critical for the Electric Works, in more ways than one.
Wednesday, the city’s Legacy Joint Funding Committee is scheduled to consider about $13.6 million in loans and grants for the $220 million first phase of the project that would redevelop the vacant General Electric campus into shops, restaurants, apartments, offices and other attractions. City Council has the final authority over the fund created through the sale of the city’s old electric utility, and six of nine votes are needed for approval.
Next Tuesday, meanwhile, the project’s developers have tentatively scheduled a public forum from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Harrison Room of the Grand Wayne Center to provide updates and answer questions.
Also next week, results of a feasibility study by RCLCO commissioned by developer RTM Ventures and reviewed by the Capital Improvement Board could be released, and RTM partner Kevan Biggs told a group touring the GE campus Tuesday the report will confirm what he and other supporters have insisted all along: The project justifies the developers’ request for $65 million in local public funds.
“It validates (what we’ve been saying). In fact, we were a little conservative in some of our estimates,” Biggs said. The property currently generates barely $100,000 in annual property taxes, he said, but developers have estimated the completed project would provide more than $518 million in direct local, state and federal taxes over 20 years, creating nearly 2,000 temporary construction jobs.
By answering questions about the massive and complex project, developers hope to build public support. And validation of their financial and market projections by RCLCO could be key to winning local public funding for the project, which to date has received a total of $3 million from Allen County and the Capital Improvement Board of environmental clean up, which Biggs said could start next month. Public sources, including state and federal tax credits, are expected to provide about 60 percent of the project’s costs. Mayor Tom Henry has said he wants to cap the contribution from the city and CIB at $50 million and suggested the county help close the gap.
Biggs told Tuesday’s tour the public dollars would not be committed until all financing is in place, and construction would not begin until a sufficient number of paying tenants is secured. If the project languished, he said, government would still receive taxes.
Biggs said the Legacy committee could decide whether Electric Works should receive funding without recommending a specific amount. Mayor Tom Henry has said he supports the project but earlier this month removed Legacy Board President Ron Turpin, who backs the project. City Council earlier suggested it would view a Legacy request for the project favorably.