Council approves resolution funding GE redevelopment
By Linda Lipp | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
In a 7-2 vote at its Feb. 27 meeting, the Fort Wayne City Council approved a resolution commiting to support an estimated $65 million in local, public funding commitments for the first phase of the Electric Works redevelopment project.
While about $13 million in funds is expected to come from loans and grants from the city’s Legacy Fund, and other funding from tax-increment financing and other bonds, the resolution the council approved made no specific allocations. The resolution was needed to add weight to efforts by RTM Ventures, the project’s development partnership, to obtain other loan and financing commitments for the $220 million redevelopment of the former General Electric’s west campus.
The total cost of the project, with the east campus added, is an estimated $440 millon.
The developers need to have their first-phase financing in place to close by May 31, and need to break ground before July 1 in order to receive the full measure of historic and other tax credits already awarded for the development.
The resolution was authored by Councilman Geoff Paddock, a Democrat in whose district the GE campus is located, and John Crawford, Republican councilman at-large.
“What we’re trying to do today is put forward a plan of thoughts, a road map, a place setting if you will and how we would like to go forward (in this project),” Paddock said at a press conference Feb. 23. “A collaborative effort…is so important to the vitality and success of this project.
The specifics of the city council’s funding commitment could change as the process moves forward, Crawford acknowledged.
“For the local part, this is the beginning of the beginning,” Crawford said at the Feb. 23 press conference. “Everybody’s got to do their part and city council’s a big part of this because we have a lot of things we have to approve for some portion of the money.”
Council members Jason Arp and Paul Ensley cast the two no votes.
RTM Ventures is a partnership of Decatur-based Biggs Development, GreenStreet Ltd. of Indianapois and Baltimore-based Cross Street Partners. Kevan Biggs spoke at the meeting, as did Jeff Kingsbury of GreenStreet.
The investment is a 60/40 mix of public and private funds, with public funds as the larger share. That is comparable to the funding ratio for other local projects, including The Landing and Parkview Field, Biggs said.
Arp asked a number of pointed questions, and expressed doubt that the market value of the 1.2 million square-foot project, both the first and second phases, warranted a total investment of $440 million. He estimated the market value, based on lease rates, at about $157 million, “so we’re potentially paying three times what this is worth,” he said.
The Electric Works project has received some attention recently as more ideas about the future of the old GE campus come to light. As part of this campus’ transformation, proposals for a regi0nal, STEM-based magnet school and an indoor farmers market look to make the location a center of activity and innovation.
“This resolution is an open door to a monumental project here in Fort Wayne,” Tom Freistroffer, City Council president, said at the Feb. 23 press conference. “A lot of people in the community are behind this. This project is not going to just build up Electric Works; its going to build up the neighborhood that surrounds it.”