The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, February 12, 2020 6:40 pm

Do it Best to be announced as Electric Works' anchor tenant


Electric Works' request for a deadline extension will have the backing of two of the three required local government boards when it introduces its anchor tenant Thursday afternoon.

The board chairman of Do it Best said the 2:30 p.m. announcement involves the New Haven-based member-owned hardware, lumber and building materials cooperative.

Brad McDaniel, who has been associated with a Do it Best hardware store in Snohomish, Washington, would not elaborate on the details of the announcement during a phone interview Wednesday.

Eight current or former local government or civic officials who asked not to be identified told The Journal Gazette this week it was their understanding Do it Best would move some or all of the operations at its international headquarters into the former General Electric campus along Broadway south of downtown Fort Wayne.

The campus is being renovated by RTM Ventures, whose partners have said they would not reveal the tenant's identity, citing a nondisclosure agreement city officials also signed.

But RTM officials said the tenant has agreed to lease 200,000 square feet of space -- an amount that put the project over the 250,000 square feet required by the development agreement. RTM last month asked for more time to fulfill the agreement's requirements, seeking to extend the financing deadline from Feb. 1 to April 30 and the closing deadline from April 30 to June 30.

The second of three required approvals of the deadline extension -- the project's third -- fell into place Wednesday morning with a unanimous vote during a special meeting of the Allen County Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board.  No public discussion preceded the vote, but an executive session did.   

The project also had its deadline extension approved 3-2 Monday by the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission. The Allen County Commissioners, who will meet Friday morning, will be the last body to vote on the extension.

"We're thrilled for another approval to advance the project forward," RTM partner Kevan Biggs said after the CIB meeting. "We feel confident that the county (commissioners) will follow suit."

The approvals mean that "people from outside Fort Wayne (will) have more confidence to invest here," Jeff Kingsbury, another RTM partner, told The Journal Gazette.

"This is a high-profile project, (and) the strong leasing momentum has generated interest and confidence in the (Fort Wayne) market from investors and lenders," he added. "We're securing the construction financing and closing in on the remaining equity."

RTM officials previously said the anchor tenant's agreement was "a game-changer" for the project. The extensions were needed to release $65 million in local government funding for the project's first phase, expected to cost about $230 million.

However, not all local officials were pleased. 

"I am a little disappointed if that is happening," long-time New Haven Councilman Floyd Ball (R-1st) said of the Do it Best move. "Anything they (the company) have asked for, we've tried to give them."

Before Maplecrest Road was extended, Do it Best employees had to cross railroad tracks to get to work at the world headquarters on Nelson Road. Improvements that came with the extension allowed employees to get to work without railroad crossing delays, Ball said.

Other present and former officials questioned whether the project's anchor tenant was meeting the spirit of the original proposal, because the jobs are not being created or relocated but moved from one area municipality to another.

Some of those officials confirmed that Do it Best Chief Executive Officer Dan Starr met with employees Tuesday to inform them of the move.  

Several officials said they hoped the move would not slow economic progress in New Haven, which has been successful in encouraging companies to locate or expand there. 

Founded in 1945, Do it Best reported $3.5 billion in sales in the 2019 fiscal year and is the second-largest co-op in its industry and the second-largest privately held company in Indiana, according to its website.

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