Fort Wayne councilmen take issue with The Landing funding

Local News
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A pair of Fort Wayne city councilmen have raised an issue with an additional request for funding for The Landing redevelopment project.

A bill set to be discussed before the council Tuesday night requests $1.4 million in funding for streetscape improvements for Columbia Street, where The Landing is undergoing an overhaul to turn it into a mixed-used district.

As Councilmen Paul Ensley (1st) and Russ Jehl (2nd) explained, when The Model Group, the project’s contractor, was granted a $2.5 million loan from the Legacy Fund in 2017, it was determined that no additional public funding for the project would be requested through a claw back provision.

Now, Jehl requests council evaluate the additional funding request to keep to that promise.

“I supported and voted for the Landing,” said Jehl. “The purpose of the provision was to insure that we have the ability to evaluate the total cost of a project before investing in it. We were assured that there would be no additional funding requested, so no public funds can be invested after the fact. Council should evaluate the streetscape proposal with caution.”

The additional $1.4 million request would come from CEDIT and Public Works dollars, the councilmen explained.

“During our budget discussions where we are again having to tell neighborhoods that there isn’t enough money to repair their neighborhood streets, it’s hard to justify diverting $1.4 million from the neighborhoods on a single downtown block,” said Ensley.

Nancy Townsend, the city’s Redevelopment Director, told WANE 15 that the West Columbia Street streetscape is part of the city of Fort Wayne’s comprehensive downtown streetscape plan, which will link the Arts Campus with the County Plaza, then The Landing and eventually north to the Riverfront.

Townsend said funding for the streetscape was not included in the Legacy loan requested by the Model Group because was not part of the developer’s project. She said streetscape projects are historically City government’s and the Redevelopment Commission’s responsibility.

The streetscape work was bid through the standard public works process through the Fort Wayne Board of Public Works, Townsend said.

Townsend said it is “appropriate” to install the streetscape now, while construction is underway, rather than tear up and rebuild streets and sidewalks later, for more money.

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