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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, April 12, 2018 1:00 am


In the Works

City lays out its multiple concerns on GE project

 The plan to redevelop Fort Wayne's GE campus still faces many hurdles. But as funding decisions loom, Mayor Tom Henry at last seems to be stepping into a public leadership role on Electric Works.

True, Henry's plan for city investment in the project stops short of the $65 million in local public funds developers say they need. He even added a new set of costs to the equation, asking City Councilman John Crawford to look into ways the council could cover $400,000 to $500,000 for “legal, financial and logistical work.”

And the mayor threw in a distraction he needs to put to rest when, during the question-and-answer session, he hinted the backup plan for the GE property if Electric Works falls through could involve reviving plans for an arena. We're not the only ones who think that dog won't hunt.

But by clearly laying out the questions they want to see answered before the city buys in, the mayor and corporate counsel Tim Haffner have helped advance an inexplicably stalled discussion.

The dollars may be easier to sort out if everyone becomes comfortable with the nature of the proposal. Henry and Haffner did everyone a service by publicly laying out the questions that have floated behind the scenes for weeks.

“Most of the people we've talked to are excited about the concept of redeveloping the GE campus, but they have questions about the details, about the mechanics, about the financing, that the mayor shares,” Haffner said. “And we simply want to get it right.”

What are those questions?

“As basic as, who are the owners?” Haffner said. “What is the legal structure, the multiple legal entities involved?

“We don't have the timing of when their funds would be made available. ... If public funds are going to go into the project, I think we'd want to make sure that it's done in concert with when private investment occurs, so that there's mutual shared risk along the way,” Haffner said.

These are, of course, reasonable concerns. Presumably, the consultant study arranged by the Capital Improvement Board will provide many of the answers. Haffner said he expects that study to be available within the next month and a half. If questions remain, surely the consortium of developers, who contend they have nothing to hide, can fill in the blanks.

Everyone involved in this potentially transformative project needs to focus on getting the key questions answered in the weeks ahead.