Northeast Indiana RDA board hears first pitch for project funding

January 22nd, 2016

News Coverage:

1/20/2016 10:24:00 AM

Northeast Indiana RDA board hears first pitch for project funding

Barry Rochford, News-Sun

FORT WAYNE — Members of the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority board voiced their support of a $40 million residential, office and retail project in downtown Fort Wayne that is seeking nearly $3 million in Regional Cities Initiative funding, but as of yet they have no money to give and no process for awarding it.

Representatives of the Skyline Tower development — a 12-story multiuse building that would be constructed next to 
Ash Brokerage Corp.’s new headquarters — provided an overview of the project and made their pitch for receiving a portion of the $42 million in state funding northeast Indiana is expected to get over the next two years at the RDA board’s meeting Tuesday in Fort Wayne.

Skyline Tower would have restaurants on the ground floor, offices on the second floor and 124 apartment units on the remaining 10 floors. Great Lakes Capital and Bradley Co., both with offices in South Bend and Fort Wayne, are developing Skyline Tower and would move their operations to the building.

Brad Toothaker, president and CEO of Bradley Co. and managing partner at Great Lakes Capital, said in addition to the companies’ own investment in Skyline Tower and private equity, the companies have sought assistance from the city of Fort Wayne, the state of Indiana and the federal government in the form of a tax abatement, a bond and tax credits.

The $2.8 million from the RDA, the entity formed last year to oversee how Regional Cities Initiative funding is distributed, is the needed last piece of the Skyline Tower project, Toothaker said.

“This really has become the ‘but for’ for the project,” he told RDA board members.

If the board agrees to provide the funding, work on Skyline Tower could start this summer and be completed in roughly 18 months.

“There aren’t going to be a whole lot of views like this in the downtown that the Skyline (Tower) provides,” said David Arnold, director at Great Lakes Capital.

Skyline Tower largely would realize the initial vision for what’s become known as the Ash Skyline Plaza development, in which Ash Brokerage is investing up to $29 million and the city of Fort Wayne is contributing $39 million in the form of a 1,200-space parking garage and infrastructure development.

Hanning & Bean Enterprises in Fort Wayne originally was to build a residential tower, but later backed out.

RDA board members were receptive to the Skyline Tower presentation, the first project to come before the group. “I think … this is the kind of project that contributes to talent attraction,” said Brad Bishop, executive director of OrthoWorx in Warsaw.

“I love this project,” said Jeff Turner, the board’s chair, and senior vice president and general counsel at Metal Technologies Inc. in Auburn. “I think it hits the sweet spot of the Regional Cities Initiative.”

The RDA, however, has not received any Regional Cities Initiative money from the state, and a grant agreement with the Indiana Economic Development Corp for $27.85 million — basically a third of the $84 million that’s available now to the three winning regions — needs revisions, board members decided Tuesday.

Plus, Skyline Tower is not among the 38 short-term projects identified in northeast Indiana’s “The Road to One Million” plan that was submitted last year to the IEDC and ultimately won the $42 million Regional Cities Initiative funding commitment from the state.

“We’re commissioned as a board to look at those projects and consider those projects on a near-term, short-term and long-term basis,” said RDA board member Bob Marshall, executive vice president at Campbell & Fetter Bank in Kendallville.

Until the RDA board can begin to nail down some of the details on its ability to award funding, members can’t begin considering project applications.

And yet, those involved with the Skyline Tower project were buoyed by the reception they received from the RDA board.

“You have a favorable audience,” Marshall said.