The first piece of public financing for a proposed $71 million downtown office and housing project fell into place Monday when the city's Redevelopment Commission agreed to pay about $4.3 million for 10 properties in the target area.
The properties in the block bounded by Wayne, Harrison, Berry and Webster streets had appraised for about $3.2 million, but Redevelopment Director Greg Leatherman said he was satisfied with the purchase agreements that had been negotiated primarily by Karl Bandemer on behalf of the not-for-profit Downtown Development Trust. Bandemer will become the city's deputy mayor later this month. The cost of acquiring a small city park at Wayne and Webster was not included in the price.
The money for the land will be provided by property taxes collected in the area near the project.
While the purchase price and appraised values of most of the properties were fairly close, the largest discrepancy involved the former Anthony Wayne Institute building at 222 W. Wayne. Built in the early 1930s, the structure was home to one of the city's earliest trade schools and was proposed for designation as a local historic district in August.
But just before the Preservation Review Board was to meet on the request – which could have made demolition more difficult – owner Andrew Stout of Deer Pointe Properties withdrew the application.
Construction is expected to begin next March, with completion in 2015. In addition to a parking garage, the project includes a new 95,000-square-foot headquarters for Fort Wayne-based Ash Brokerage, 80 apartments, as many as 14 condominiums and six townhouses. Ash has pledged to spend $19.6 million, Hanning & Bean Enterprises $32 million and the city $19.5 million.
In addition to buying the land, the city will provide $11.7 million toward the garage, $2.7 million to prepare the site and $750,000 for streetscape improvements.
Director of Community Development John Urbahns told the commission up to $2 million from the city's “Legacy” fund may be sought, along with funds controlled by the city's Capital Improvement Board, which will hear the city's presentation at its Thursday meeting.
Unlike Harrison Square, parts of which were delayed when private developers were unable to complete work on schedule, the legal agreements guiding this project impose penalties for non-performance.
“This will create a vibrancy (downtown). The momentum is quite amazing,” said Urbahns, who added that Ash has seen an increase in job applications since the project was announced. Ash has 200 employees now but plans to add 115 more after moving downtown. Salaries at the company average about $60,000, Urbahns said.