In a 7-2 vote Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council approved a nonbinding resolution to support exploration of public funding for the massive redevelopment of the former General Electric campus.
The resolution does not commit public funding to the project now but does allow the developer, RTM Ventures, to try to secure lease agreements from potential tenants. Tuesday's discussion was another chance for City Council members to learn about the project, hear about potential funding requests and outline what they would like to see moving forward for the campus now called Electric Works. The resolution was sponsored by Councilmen Geoff Paddock, D-5th, and John Crawford, R-at large.
RTM Ventures is a joint venture consisting of Cross Street Partners of Baltimore, Greenstreet Ltd. of Indianapolis, and Biggs Development of Decatur.
“We feel that there are examples also that have taken advantage of this kind of abandoned space and made great use out of it and created great opportunities and a lot of jobs,” Paddock said, pointing to similar projects in St. Louis; South Bend; Baltimore; and Durham, North Carolina.
“What's really important here is the possibility for the revitalization of not just neighborhoods but an entire section of the city that's been struggling for quite some time.”
RTM Ventures has secured or is eligible for about $100 million in federal and state tax credits to support the project but still needs about $65 million in public investment to finalize project funding, a bank loan in particular.
“For this thing to be successful, we need a buy-in from the entire community,” Crawford said. “There are many people who will have to come together, both appointed and elected bodies will have to support this.”
Public funding proposals that could be presented to council moving forward, Crawford said, include $13.5 million from the city's Legacy Fund.
About $6 million from the Legacy Fund would be in the form of a loan that would be repaid using revenue generated by a tax increment financing district that encompasses the campus. The remaining $7.5 million from the Legacy Fund would be a grant paid for using no more than 50 percent of payments made to the Legacy Fund from 2019 to 2024.
A tax increment financing district, or TIF, requires that all new property revenue generated in the district be used to pay for infrastructure projects only within that district. GE's campus project will need road, sidewalk and other improvements.
The Legacy Fund consists of money generated by the lease and sale of the city's old power utility.
Crawford said Tuesday that as of Jan. 23, the fund had about $22 million in unencumbered funds. Six of the nine City Council members must support an allocation from the Legacy Fund for it to be approved.
Other possible funding proposals include $3 million in Legacy funds as debt reserve and $3 million from the city's County Economic Development Income Tax reserves.
Councilmen Paul Ensley, R-1st, and Jason Arp, R-4th, were the only council members to vote against the resolution.
Developer: Tenants lining up
Interest and activity among potential commercial tenants at Electric Works continues to increase, the team redeveloping the former General Electric campus said Tuesday.
RTM Ventures has actively engaged more than 100 regionally and locally based retail and office tenant prospects. Nearly 90 percent of qualified prospects are either planning new ventures at Electric Works or planning to expand their existing business, officials said.
Electric Works has secured interest and letters of intent covering 114,200 square feet, nearly 50 percent of the project's pre-leasing goal. This does not include letters of intent signed by Fort Wayne Community Schools or Fort Wayne Public Market, as programs and space needs for both are still being determined. It also does not include the 70,000-square-foot Electric Works Innovation Space, which will offer flexible lease terms to entrepreneurs and small businesses, officials said.