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The Journal Gazette

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018 1:00 am

Rezoning OK'd for GE, US 30 sites

Council delays senior housing

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

In a 7-0 vote Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council approved a rezoning petition for the planned Electric Works project south of downtown, readying the property for future development. 

The council also unanimously approved the rezoning of land on U.S. 30 across from Sweetwater Sound for a new office park and industrial park.

A rezoning petition for a set of 60 senior homes along Auburn Road was held for two weeks to give neighbors more time to reach a deal with the developer to buy the land. The rezoning proposal, which residents of nearby neighborhoods opposed, was also previously held two weeks ago to allow a group of residents time to pursue buying the site.

The rezoning petition filed by RTM Ventures, the firm redeveloping the former General Electric campus, would change the site from its existing limited industrial classification to a limited commercial designation to accommodate the planned mixed-use development. The petition approved Tuesday covers both the east and west campuses, said Michelle Wood, a senior planner for the Department of Planning Services. 

RTM Ventures is working to secure $65 million in public funding for the $221 million first phase of the project. Mayor Tom Henry has suggested $50 million in city funds.

The city's Legacy Joint Funding Board is considering more than $13 million in a loan and a grant to support the development. 

Residents living in the Kruse addition near the planned office park development raised concerns over traffic flow on Washington Center Road, as well as the position of a set of industrial buildings that will support the surrounding office buildings. Original plans called for the industrial buildings to be built on the northwest corner of the property. However, after residents complained, those buildings were moved to the interior of the property. 

Other residents raised concerns that a proposed entrance to the office park on Washington Center Road will exacerbate existing traffic problems and cause issues for residents trying to enter or leave their subdivision.

Residents opposed to a plan to create 60 senior homes on nearly 2 acres of land on Auburn Road expressed similar concerns with traffic, as well as that development's potential environmental impact. In recent weeks a group of residents has been negotiating with the developer of the site, ASH Holding Co., to buy that property, said City Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, noting that the residents appeared to be close to reaching a deal.

In other business, the City Council approved the issue of tax-exempt revenue bonds for the boutique hotel planned for Harrison and Main streets in downtown Fort Wayne. The bonds do not represent a financial investment into the project from the city. Developers can apply to use the city's credit rating to secure better interest rates on bank loans. Should the project fail, taxpayers are not on the hook for any of the investment. The bonds were previously approved by the Fort Wayne Economic Development Commission. 

The new boutique hotel is the product of a partnership between Vera Bradley co-founder Barbara Baekgaard and Portland, Oregon-based Provenance Hotels.