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Electric Works developer looks for public support, updates project

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Amid questions in city leadership over the progress of the Electric Works project, a developer made a pitch for support.

Kevan Biggs of RTM Ventures presented an update on the work to the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne Monday. Following the meeting, he talked about the project with NewsChannel 15.

Monday was an eventful day for developers, meeting with Mayor Tom Henry before the Rotary presentation and ending the day meeting with a consultant at the campus who will help determine the feasibility of the project.

"This is where we need to roll up our sleeves and put together a strategy that is going to take to bring together the funding for the project," Biggs explained.

Funding for the project has been discussed in city council meetings, with councilmen looking at funding options. Developers are looking for funding from private groups and money from state, local and national programs. Biggs said the city's part would amount to $65 million, which would be made back in tax revenue in 12 years.

Even though we are strategizing, looking at putting all these funds together on the public side, none of that goes out the door until all of those questions are answered by the gate keeper, which is the private sector," Biggs said.

NewsChannel 15 reported in February that leases are waiting to be signed for more than 114,000 square feet of commercial space. Indiana Tech and a farmer's market have already committed to leasing space. Fort Wayne Community Schools leaders have expressed interest as well.

On Monday, Biggs told the Rotary Club that developers have been in talks with a large anchor tenant that would fall in line with the vision for the campus. An announcement could come in a month's time.

"We feel that we are well on the way down the pipe given that we started the process of leasing the first of the year, in January."

Biggs started the presentation by calling out City Councilman Jason Arp. He said Arp claimed a partner of Biggs filed for bankruptcy while questioning the value of the city's investment in the project.  Biggs called the statement "factually wrong" and said it "could not be further from the truth."

Biggs had the same sentiment for another comment Arp made, when referencing the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, North Carolina. That project has been used as a reference point for what the General Electric campus can be transformed into. Biggs said Arp called the Durham project "failing" before telling the Rotary Club that it has been a success, with no start-up businesses moving out of it.

NewsChannel 15 called Councilman Arp seeking comment. Arp shared a news story, published in multiple articles about two buildings on the American Tobacco Campus. According to the Triangle Business Journal and Commercial Property Executive, the buildings were sold to a Baltimore-based development group for renovations, but the company ran out of money. The buildings were sold back to the original developer.

Other updates from the presentation included details about the large iconic sign that used to sit atop one of the buildings. Biggs said General Electric leaders told the developers the only place the G.E. logo could remain is on the court of the on-campus gym. Biggs said developers are looking into building a new sign for Electric Works.

Biggs also said developers reached out to the Fort Wayne Parks Department hoping to control programming at McCulloh Park along Broadway.


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