FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – An agreement pledging public funds to the Electric Works project has been canceled by the city’s Redevelopment Commission. Despite the move, developers for the project are committed to starting construction this fall.
However, Do it Best Corp, the anchor tenant for the project, offered a “no comment” response when contacted by WANE 15 on Tuesday regarding Monday’s development.
In a statement to WANE 15 Monday, a spokesman for the RTM Ventures development team said the ‘deal is not dead.’
We own 40 acres and the most historic buildings in Fort Wayne, have full construction drawings, a shovel-ready site, over 60% pre-leasing – including Indiana’s largest privately held company as an anchor tenant – along with leading organizations like Parkview Health, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Fort Wayne Metals, Indiana Tech, IU Ventures, and Medical Informatics Engineering, among others. With the support of local investors and civic leaders, businesses big and small, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, five local and regional banks, and federal and state tax credit investors nationwide, we have met the conditions of the Economic Development Agreement. We’re ready to move to closing this $280 million deal and getting people to work. We hope the City and Redevelopment Commission will come back to the table.
Monday afternoon, commission members unanimously voted to terminate the Economic Development Agreement that had been extended five times since it was drawn up in 2018. According to the city’s redevelopment director, Nancy Townsend, there was a shortfall in funds needed to make the project a reality with help from the city.
Townsend called the project a difficult one for the community, calling it ‘a heavy lift from the beginning.’
“Nobody celebrates projects that don’t happen… it’s not what we do,” Townsend added. “The Economic Development Agreement is in place with the number one goal of protecting our public funds.”
Developers asked for $62 million in public funds for the $280 million project.
Peter Mallers, representing the developers at the table, disagreed with using “shortfall” in describing the funding situation. He reiterated that developers were able to secure the needed leasing commitments and discussions have been happening with other possible funding sources.
Developers said they were taken by surprised by the commission’s vote, according to the statement.
In the face of a global pandemic and historically high unemployment, we are planning to start construction this fall, spending $200 million over the next 24 months, and generating 2,000 construction and related jobs when this community needs it most, including a workforce development program and a commitment to growing minority-, women,- and veteran-business enterprises.
While public dollars are no longer committed to the project, as part of the motion, city leaders can continue to discuss development and funding options with RTM or future developers. RTM developers have said they’ll stick to the plan.
Our commitment to making this project happen has not changed, and we’ll continue to work to move Electric Works forward with the City and Redevelopment Commission. The people of Fort Wayne, Allen County, and Northeast Indiana have overwhelmingly supported the community’s vision of Electric Works from the start, and we will need them to continue to do so.
While the meeting was not a public hearing, Councilman Geoff Paddock asked what happens to other governmental bodies who pledged money. His question was not entertained.
Paddeck has asked for a discussion between the council, redevelopment commission, and project developers. He says the decision to cut the funding came as a shock to many and wants to bring the parties together to discuss the future of the project and potentially find a solution.
Councilman Jason Arp, who is a representative on the commission, says the decision was in response to repeated deadline extensions.