Downtown Fort Wayne Project Grows

Posted: Updated:

The city of Fort Wayne is committing more money to a project Mayor Tom Henry says will be a downtown "game changer." The estimated cost for the Emerald Skyline development has grown from $71 million to $98 million, with Fort Wayne's portion increasing from about $19 million to $39 million. Henry says the increased investment is worth it since the tower, which includes an Ash Brokerage Corp. headquarters, will spur development by bringing hundreds of workers downtown. Ash says it will move 200 employees to the new building and plans to create approximately 115 jobs over the next few years.

May 8, 2014

News Release

Fort Wayne, Ind. -- The Ash Brokerage Corporation and Hanning & Bean Enterprises development, which will continue the positive momentum and transformation of downtown Fort Wayne and bring new jobs to the community, has reached a milestone with the signing of development agreements. The agreements are contracts that allow the City of Fort Wayne to move forward with seeking approvals for the publicly funded portion of the project.

The public-private partnership includes a new national corporate headquarters for Ash Brokerage, a residential component led by Hanning & Bean Enterprises, retail space, and a publicly owned parking garage.

When the project was announced in September 2013, the preliminary investment estimates totaled $71 million. Data released today shows the project investment has grown to $98 million, with $59 million coming from private investment, and the public investment at $39 million, up from last fall's preliminary estimate of $19.5 million.

The increased investment by the City of Fort Wayne will be to the parking garage. In order to meet current needs, anticipated growth and future development in the downtown area, updated plans include a much larger garage with 1,200 parking spaces (up from 750). Soil conditions and the relocation of a sewer line are also factors that have led to additional City resources being needed for the development. The City's investment also includes land acquisition, site preparation, streetscape improvements, utility upgrades, as well as other project enhancements.

Funding for the City's investment in the development will come from a combination of tax increment financing (TIF) funds through the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission, Legacy funds, and support from the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board (CIB). No property taxes will be used to fund the City’s portion of the project.

"Today is a tremendous step forward in our collective efforts to invest in our future and be a leader in economic development, job creation, and job retention," said Mayor Tom Henry. "This partnership sends a strong message that we value downtown and we’re committed to an excellent quality of life that will continue the unprecedented momentum in our community."

Ash Brokerage, the largest independently owned brokerage agency in the United States serving insurance agents, financial advisors, registered representatives and career agents nationwide, will invest nearly $10 million more than was originally proposed. Ash’s investment of up to $29 million includes 95,000 square feet of office space, an increase from the original proposal of 65,000 square feet of space. More than 200 employees will be part of Ash's move to downtown, with an anticipated increase of 115 local jobs over the next few years.

"This is a sign of progress that means validation, and confirms value and commitment. By unanimously participating in this private and public partnership, Fort Wayne is taking a huge step into the future, with the end result of making our community stronger," said Tim Ash, chief executive officer of Ash Brokerage.

Hanning & Bean Enterprises will invest $30 million in the construction of a residential development including 80 apartments (77,000 square feet), 10-14 condominiums (16,000 square feet), and six street-front townhouses (11,750 square feet). There will also be 23,800 square feet of first-floor retail space to be co-developed by Ash and Hanning & Bean. A tenant commitment has already been made by Lake City Bank to the commercial space. In addition, there will be a rooftop park/green space on top of the parking garage.

"We're excited to be part of this unique project that will continue to enhance the growth and redevelopment of our downtown," said Bill Bean, VP, Hanning & Bean Enterprises. "The new housing opportunities that are being created will assist our efforts in making downtown a place to live, work, and play."

The Ash Brokerage/Hanning & Bean development has received strong support from the business community, downtown advocates, and neighborhood representatives. The project will enhance Fort Wayne’s position as a leader in job growth, economic development, and quality of life with new knowledge-based jobs and hundreds of construction jobs.

The new development will be bordered by Wayne, Harrison, Berry, and Webster streets and utilize nearly a full square block. Utility relocation work will begin this month with available funds through the Redevelopment Commission. Following all remaining necessary approvals, officials anticipate site preparation work will begin in June.

Status of approvals and next steps for the development:

*In October 2013, the CIB approved to provide the City with $6.5 million over 10 years. City officials will ask the CIB to support an additional $4 million to assist with financing the parking garage. The CIB will meet at 8 a.m. Monday, May 12 at the Grand Wayne Center to discuss the new funding request.

*In October 2013, the Redevelopment Commission ratified and approved land acquisition costs and a contract for professional architectural/engineering services for the parking garage. The Redevelopment Commission will be asked to pledge TIF funds for the development. This action will occur at the Redevelopment Commission meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, May 12 at Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry St. At a future Redevelopment Commission meeting, members will be asked to approve a bond to finance the parking garage and site preparation work. The bond financing will also need approval from City Council.

*City officials and the developers will come before City Council to present the project and request $5 million in Legacy funds. The Legacy request will be introduced on Tuesday, May 13, with discussion planned for Tuesday, May 20, and possible final passage on Tuesday, May 27.

*In January 2014, the Fort Wayne Board of Park Commissioners approved the relocation of Cindy's Diner. It’s anticipated Cindy’s Diner will move in late June to its new location at the corner of West Berry Street and Maiden Lane in a portion of the Community Center parking lot.

*In February 2014, the Fort Wayne Plan Commission approved the Primary Development Plan for the project.

Source: City of Fort Wayne