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The Journal Gazette

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Saturday, September 08, 2018 1:00 am

GFW presses for Electric Works

Urges board to lobby officials in favor of plan

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. is urging its board members to push local leaders to approve plans for Electric Works, the development planned for the former General Electric campus south of downtown.

The project cleared a procedural hurdle last week when the city of Fort Wayne and developer RTM Ventures finalized a development agreement for the property, but plans still must be approved by the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission, the Legacy Joint Funding Committee and the Fort Wayne City Council.

The redevelopment commission is set to vote on the agreement Monday, and Greater Fort Wayne sent a letter Friday to leaders of businesses that make up its board encouraging them to speak up for the project and lobby local politicians to support it.

The letter signed by CEO Eric Doden says Electric Works is key to attracting jobs, businesses, investors and workers to Allen County. It is accompanied by a list of public officials who will help shape the development, along with their contact information.

“Mayor (Tom) Henry and the county commissioners have voiced their support for Electric Works, but we should not take their support as a guarantee that their appointees will approve the project and advance it to the remaining funding bodies,” the letter states. “I am calling on you, our board members, to exercise your voice and demonstrate community leadership.

“As leaders, we must urge our local officials to put their words into actions.”

The development agreement includes conditions officials and developers must meet for the project to move forward. It also describes benchmarks required to secure $62 million in funding from the city.

Henry and RTM Ventures announced the agreement Aug. 30 after months of negotiations, and it includes a requirement that the city approve 250,000 square feet of lease commitments by June 30. Lease terms and conditions for tenants “must be reviewed and approved by an independent consultant,” according to documents released by the city.

At least 150,000 square feet must be taken up by tenants new to Allen County or who are bringing jobs with them that are new to the area.

The letter from Doden said it's also important for local businesses to consider moving to the site.

Construction on the mixed-use development is expected to begin next year and could be completed in 2020, a spokesman for the developers said last week.

Greater Fort Wayne estimates Electric Works will employ nearly 2,000 workers as it's built and will have an annual economic impact of more than $387 million after it's completed.

The business group, Henry and other officials hail the proposed development as an innovative way toward economic development in the area, but Electric Works plans will be carefully scrutinized as they move forward.

Christopher Guerin, a member of the redevelopment commission, called the agreement “a long and complicated document.”

“It's likely that most or all of the commissioners will have questions,” he said. “I'm still formulating those.” 

Commissioner Jason Arp, who also represents the 4th District on the Fort Wayne City Council, said he reviewed the agreement late Friday afternoon and is concerned about millions of dollars in public money going into the project. He also questioned proposed tax abatements tied to Electric Works. 

Arp said he likely could not vote for the agreement in its current form.

mleblanc@jg.net