Land to sell? County eyes property for development

August 11th, 2016

By ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

The Allen County Redevelopment Commission is shopping for land.

Having sold two big tracts in the past year, the entity that works to attract industry has found its inventory down to only a couple of parcels, and staff members are beginning to contact landowners who may want to sell.

Commission members heard about the move during this week’s meeting. They also heard about an idea to go beyond the strategy of providing shovel-ready ground and build a “spec” building, one constructed without a specific buyer or use in mind.

In an interview after the meeting, Scott Harrold, senior economic development specialist, said staff members plan to approach owners of at least two sites of between 100 and 200 acres.

He said one site is west of the General Motors plant in southwest Allen County. The other is southeast of Fort Wayne International Airport in the vicinity of the General Mills distribution center along Bluffton Road and the land the commission sold for the still-to-be-built Wal-Mart milk processing plant at Bluffton and Pleasant Center roads.

Meetings with property owners are still in preliminary stages, he said, and no offers have been made.

During the meeting, Elissa McGauley, redevelopment director, told the commission it might want to assist in developing a spec building similar to one Fort Wayne is developing near the airport. 

Such buildings, also known as shell buildings, can be attractive to businesses that don’t want to wait for infrastructure development.

But questions remain as to how best to provide incentives for such development beyond the current system, based largely of the number of jobs created or retained, commission member Roy Buskirk said. That might require new state legislation, he said.

Buskirk added that land with rail access should be sought for additional parcels.

“It’s very important that we have one (site) with rail access,” he said.

Darren Vogt, commission member, said he would like to see a more systematic plan for acquisitions, including identifying priority areas and properties.

“I think we haven’t looked (enough) at short-, medium- and long-term goals,” he said. 

The commission still holds about 50 shovel-ready acres east of New Haven, known as the Ryan Industrial Site, and acreage in its shovel-ready Stonebridge Business Park. That site along Lafayette Center Road has unexpired options secured by NorthPoint Development Corp.

NorthPoint, of Kansas City, Missouri, this year announced plans to build a nearly 800,000-square-foot facility in Stonebridge to supply needs of the nearby GM plant.