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Last updated: Tue. Mar. 12, 2013 - 04:19 pm EDT

City eyes housing near ballpark

To buy block west of Ewing Street

FORT WAYNE — The Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission will soon be the owner of almost the entire block west of Parkview Field and is eyeing it for residential development.

Commission members voted unanimously Monday to move forward with $1.9 million in land purchases on the block bordered by Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue on the east and west and Jefferson Boulevard and Brackenridge Street on the north and south.

The block covers about 4 acres; about 1.2 acres is already owned by the city, bought as a staging area for construction of The Harrison. The city is not interested in the Shell gas station at Jefferson and Fairfield, commission Director Greg Leatherman said, and is in final negotiations to buy the auto-repair shop at Jefferson and Ewing.

The new purchases, if approved, would give the city almost the entire block.

Leatherman said the idea is to create a nearly 4-acre site that is prime for development, especially residential development. A 2006 study by New Jersey-based Zimmerman/Volk Associates said there is market potential for residential housing downtown; city officials have long said having more people live downtown is needed to spur yet more development there.

Likely development options for the site would be apartments for rent or row houses for purchase. Developers have already approached the city about row house developments, Leatherman said. He said he envisions 100 to 125 two-story townhouse-style apartments on the site surrounding a courtyard, but the commission is open to developer ideas.

“There are two or three developers who are very keenly interested in responding to (a request for proposals) for this property,” Leatherman said. The corner lot at Ewing and Jefferson, currently home of J&M auto repair, will not be part of the residential area but will be reserved for commercial development.

The $1.9 million cost for what is expected to be 13 purchases will be paid by the Jefferson Illinois TIF district, which uses new property taxes from development within the district to pay for infrastructure within the district. The block being purchased is immediately adjacent to the district, which officials have said is allowed under state law.

State law requires the commission to get two appraisals on the land before buying but does not require the commission to pay the appraised price. The land was appraised at just more than $1 million.

Leatherman said he hopes to close on the properties and have them cleared before fall.

The area could also become part of a Community Revitalization Enhancement District, called a CRED. A CRED uses sales taxes and the income taxes taken out of the paychecks of employees who work in the district, which is then used to pay for improvements like new sidewalks and streetlights, or in this case, property acquisition.

Changing the CRED would require the approval of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which could create an issue for its current leader.

Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden is seeking a formal advisory opinion from the State Ethics Commission regarding a possible conflict between his role as president of the IEDC and the possible development deal.

Doden is on a leave of absence from his company, Domo Ventures LLC. He owns the company jointly with a Michigan resident. Domo Ventures LLC is a minority partner in Domo Development LLC.

Doden is concerned that Domo Development might bid on the Fairfield-Ewing project, and if the city would expand the CRED adjacent to the property, and Domo Development would win the contract, the company would be up for a state tax credit if the IEDC finds it to be a “qualified investment.”

“Doden could face a potential conflict of interest based on his role as President of the IEDC and the IEDC’s approval of qualified investments for CReED tax credits,” his memo to the ethics commission said. “Should these unlikely events occur, Doden would recuse himself from the decision-making process at the IEDC for CReED tax credits and the IEDC would implement measures to screen Doden from involvement in the matter.”

The ethics commission will meet Thursday on Doden’s request for review.

Niki Kelly of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

dstockman@jg.net


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