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Step taken to develop site near airport

July 17th, 2018

By Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

A 223-acre site near Fort Wayne International Airport, a portion of it long vacant, is being sweetened for the real estate market by being designated an economic development area.

The designation of the Airport Expressway South Economic Development Area received unanimous preliminary approval Tuesday from the Allen County Redevelopment Commission.

The proposed EDA lies to the west of the airport and south of Franklin Electric along Airport Expressway and is bounded by Smith Road to the east and Coverdale Road to the west.

If the EDA receives all necessary approvals, that will allow creation of a tax increment financing district as an incentive for potential buyers, said Elissa McGauley, redevelopment director.

Such districts, also called TIFs, allow taxes on any increase in a property's value – for example, from new buildings – to be reinvested in infrastructure improvements that serve the EDA.

Patrick Dooley, vice president of operations for the airport, said the airport authority owns about 140 acres of the land, which has been vacant because the Federal Aviation Administration stipulated that part of it remain dedicated for aeronautical uses.

Recently, he said, the airport was able to negotiate removal of that provision, so the land could be sold for other uses.

“Over the years we have been approached (by potential buyers) many, many times, and once you explain the process, they think there's other land that's easier to go for,” Dooley said.

He added the process for negotiating federal release of the FAA stipulation began about three years ago.

Not all strings have been removed, he said.

The land still must be sold for its appraised value, Dooley said, and for a use that does not interfere with airport operations.

The land, which has public sewer and water, is zoned general industrial, he said. He added the property would be “perfect” for a spec or shell building, one built either without a user in mind or built to suit a specific use.

McGauley said an EDA declaration would help get land back on the tax rolls. It is exempt now because of airport authority ownership, she said.

“I think they (at the airport authority) feel this is an opportunity to add that (EDA designation) tool to the mix” for marketing. She said the property has been on the list of available sites, marketed by Greater Fort Wayne for some time.

Dooley said other open land near the airport is selling between $25,000 and $50,000 per acre. He does not expect this land to go for much less.

“But we're looking not at just to get the highest price, but at what would create jobs and be compatible with the airport,” Dooley said. He added no specific buyer has come forward.

The EDA would need to be approved by the Allen County Plan Commission and the county commissioners before a public hearing before the redevelopment commission would take place and a final vote taken.

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