A massive effort to redevelop the former General Electric campus in downtown Fort Wayne is getting a boost after weeks of uncertainty. RTM Ventures, the developer behind the Electric Works mixed-use innovation district, and Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry have announced a tentative agreement to move the project forward. The deal includes a revised economic development agreement, as well as the addition of a co-developer and a new investor.
The project had been in jeopardy after the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission terminated the previous economic development agreement with RTM Ventures, citing concerns the developer would be able to secure the private financing needed to move forward.
The moved caused concern for the Fort Wayne City Council, which had approved a preliminary resolution to investigate the reasoning behind the commission’s move. The resolution did not come to a final vote after city officials said recent discussions about continuing the project had been positive..
The city says the revised EDA will provide a framework that sets expectations for the public and private sectors to meet in order to close on the financing for the project. When finalized, the EDA must be approved by various local governing bodies, though a time frame for those votes is not yet known.
Both the city and RTM Ventures say they will work to close on the project by the end of the year.
Cincinnati-based The Model Group has joined RTM Ventures as the new co-developer for Electric Works. The company has experience in Fort Wayne, having led the $34 million redevelopment of The Landing in the city’s downtown.
“Electric Works presents the rare opportunity to revitalize a vacant and blighted remnant of the past by leveraging the historic buildings to create a mixed-use innovation district that will impact the economy of northeast Indiana,” Bobby Maly, chief executive officer of The Model Group said in a news release. “We look forward to working with Mayor Henry and to again partner with principals of RTM Ventures in our shared mission to positively transform communities.”
Tim Ash, CEO of Fort Wayne-based insurance firm Ash Brokerage, has signed on as an investor and general partner for the project. Ash is also no stranger to major developments in downtown Fort Wayne; his company’s national corporate headquarters are part of the Ash Skyline Plaza mixed-use development and he is also part of a new mixed-use project, the Ashberry, which will include commercial and retail space.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that keeps our City moving forward and continues the momentum of positive development that has been taking place in downtown for the past several years,” said Ash. “We know that 2020 has been a challenging year on many levels and getting Electric Works underway is an example of how Fort Wayne is going to be a “net winner” in attracting and retaining talent and creating new jobs.”
The first phase of Electric Works is expected to cost $280 million to complete and the developer has already secured more than $215 million in private funding, as well as federal and state tax credits.
The project’s first phase will cover 12 acres and 730,000 square feet of space. It will be anchored by Fort Wayne-based Do It Best Corp., which has committed to relocating its global headquarters to the development once the first phase is complete and adding 90 jobs.
Other tenants signed on for Electric Works include Parkview Health, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Indiana Tech, IU Ventures, and Fort Wayne Metals.
“Tim Ash’s major investments in and passionate commitment to downtown gave us confidence to invest in Fort Wayne,” said Josh Parker, managing principal of RTM Ventures. “With Model Group’s demonstrated success with The Landing, and our work together in Dayton, we have a co-developer that we respect and who shares our values. Tim and Bobby fully support the community’s vision for Electric Works and we welcome them to the team that will deliver the promise of Electric Works to this community.”
The city says the new partnership will also support two additional improvements. A $7.5 million New Markets Tax Credits allocation will support the development of a new headquarters for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra in the city’s downtown. Also, Tim Ash says he will reinvest any financial gains from his investment in Electric Works to the city’s southeast side.