FORT WAYNE — Construction on the $98 million Skyline project has officially begun.
Officials from Ash Brokerage, developer Hanning & Bean and numerous city government entities held a groundbreaking Thursday to kick off work for a massive commercial, retail and residential project that will cover most of a city block between Wayne and Berry, Harrison and Webster streets downtown.
Ash Brokerage is planning an eight-story, 95,000-square-foot, $29 million headquarters on the site. The company will move its 200 employees to the new building and add 115 more.
Also in the project is a $30 million, 17-story residential tower of 100 townhomes, apartments and condos by Hanning & Bean Enterprises. Both projects will sit on top of a city-owned 1,200-space parking garage, which will be surrounded by street-level retail.
The Ash Brokerage office tower will be known as Ash Skyline Plaza, while the residential tower will be called Skyline Terrace.
Surrounded by a bulldozer, excavators and a crane armed with a wrecking ball, officials donned hard hats and turned ceremonial shovels of dirt to celebrate the start of construction.
“Once again, it’s a great day in the city of Fort Wayne,” Mayor Tom Henry said, beaming. “I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate all you have done.”
Tim Ash, president and CEO of Ash Brokerage, said it’s hard to believe the project is really happening.
“It’s not about Ash Brokerage, it’s about our city. We hope others are inspired to want to do more,” Ash said.
“We’re going to make this community proud.”
Hanning & Bean’s Bill Bean said the project will take downtown to the next level.
“I think this is a game changer for downtown,” Bean said. “From the feedback we’re getting, maybe we should have built it bigger.”
Bean said the 24,000 square feet of retail space is almost all spoken for.
“I wish we had double” the space, he said. “We’re filling in a huge hole in the heart of the city.”
Local government is contributing about $39 million toward the project, which includes the land, demolition of the buildings currently on the site, excavation and construction of the parking garage.
The Capital Improvement Board, which gets its funding from the food and beverage tax in Allen County, is contributing $10.5 million toward the project.
There is also $4 million that has built up in a fund that collects money to make loan payments for the Grand Wayne Center expansion, $2.7 million from county economic development income taxes, and $5 million from the Legacy Fund, which is money from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility.
The rest will come from the tax increment finance district that covers downtown.
Officials said demolition is expected to begin next week, and work on the parking garage will begin in August.
That will allow work on the Ash tower to start in February and construction of the Hanning & Bean tower in May.
The project is expected to be completed in 2016.