Ruoff downtown HQ confirmed
By Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne residents can expect to see a traditionally styled, eight-story brick building if or when Ruoff Home Mortgage completes its plan to locate its corporate headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne.
The home mortgage lender Friday confirmed it aims within the next few weeks to reach a financing agreement with city officials to move its headquarters to the southwest corner of West Jefferson Boulevard and Ewing Street.
The site is now a vacant lot across from Parkview Field last used as a staging area for construction of the Cityscape Flats housing complex.
Mark K. Music, 56, Ruoff president and chief executive officer, described the new headquarters as looking like “an old warehouse, loft-style building” with four levels of parking, including one below grade, and 13,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
The building faces Ewing and looks over the ballpark, he said. “It should fit in very nicely with the look of the ballpark,” Music said.
Music said the project, in the works for two years, awaits resolution of a financing agreement for the building's parking garage. He said it would accommodate about 240 vehicles in a downtown area where parking increasingly comes at a premium.
“We're pretty confident that we have the office building part of the project pretty well in order. The hurdle we're still needing to get over is the parking garage portion. The challenge is that, being downtown, parking garages tend to cost more than they appraise for,” Music said.
So, he said, the project has a financing “hole” to fill and is looking to the city to help.
He declined to discuss how much is needed or who would make the financing decision and when it might occur.
John Perlich, spokesman for Mayor Tom Henry, said Thursday the city and Ruoff are continuing to negotiate.
The project has been estimated at $32 million.
In December, the project received $5.8 million in Community Revitalization Enhancement District tax credits through the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
Since then, “we've been working on the design to bring the cost and construction time down, which we've done,” Music said, noting two stories were cut from the building as initially envisioned.
“Now it's a matter of sitting down with the city one last time. We've squeezed it as much as we can,” he added.
Ruoff, which will retain its lending centers on Dupont Road and Pointe Inverness Way, would move its corporate office employees now at 1700 Magnavox Way into the new building.
They now number about 150 but could rise to 225 in the three or four years it will take to bring the new building online, Music said.
The building has 97,000 square feet of space not counting the parking garage and retail area, he said.
The company has offices around Indiana and in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Florida.
Having an up-to-date workspace is essential to recruiting and retaining young talent needed for a company to grow, Music said.
The company wants to be in downtown Fort Wayne “for a number of reasons, but the primary driver is we need to attract young people, particularly young talent,” he said.
“So, having a state-of-the-art office environment for them to work in, plus having a vibrant work environment around them downtown is vital,” he added.
“After all, we're competing with places like downtown Indy and Columbus, Ohio,” Music said. “It's a challenge just to attract talent – and keep our best talent at home.”