The Fort Wayne City Council will this evening discuss a bill that could ultimately threaten funding for a more than $30 million mixed-use development project currently under construction. Two councilors have expressed concern over the bill, which requests $1.4 million for streetscape improvements at The Landing.
The council says the bill could possibly trigger a claw back of Legacy Funding previously approved by the council. In 2017, developer The Model Group Inc. was awarded a $2.5 million loan from the city’s Legacy Fund, which came with a provision that no additional public funding would be requested.
Councilor Paul Russell Jehl, who represents the city’s 2nd district, says the purpose of the claw back provision "was to insure that we have the ability to evaluate the total cost of a project before investing in it. We were assured that there would be no additional funding requested, so no public funds can be invested after the fact. Council should evaluate the streetscape proposal with caution."
However, Fort Wayne Redevelopment Director Nancy Townsend says the streetscape bill is not a part of The Model Group’s project and was never a part of the Legacy Fund loans requested by the developer. In a statement provided to Inside INdiana Business, Townsend says the streetscape work is simply being done in conjunction with The Landing construction in order to avoid unnecessary excess costs.
Thompson’s full statement:
The West Columbia Street streetscape is part of the City of Fort Wayne’s comprehensive downtown streetscape plan, which will link the Arts Campus with the County Plaza, then The Landing and finally north to the Riverfront. It is appropriate to install this portion of downtown streetscape now while construction is underway, thereby ensuring the streets and sidewalks will not need to be re-built twice, costing additional dollars.
It is historically City government’s and the Redevelopment Commission’s responsibility to complete streetscape projects; sidewalks, roads, street trees are all public property and as such the infrastructure is designed and installed by City government. The work is completed in conjunction with private projects in order to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
The West Columbia streetscape was never part of the Legacy loan requested by the Model Group because it is not part of the developer’s project. The scope of work outlined in the loan request was for the revitalization of seven historic buildings and the construction of one new building.
The streetscape work was bid through the standard public works process through the Fort Wayne Board of Public Works.
The council says the additional funding would be used to complete the streetscape work for The Landing and would come from CEDIT and Public Works dollars. The new bill, and possible revocation of previously-awarded funding, will be discussed at the meeting, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Citizen’s Square. The meeting is open to the public.
Work on the $30 million development began in February. The project includes the restoration of seven historic buildings and construction of one new building. It will feature 70 apartments and 56,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. The project is expected to be complete next summer.