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Fort Wayne officials hope 'shell building' brings jobs

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 12:01 am

If you build it, they will come.

Fort Wayne economic development officials hope that proves to be the case with a proposed “shell building” near Interstate 69 and Hatfield Road that could get up to $875,000 in public assistance.

A resolution up for introduction at Tuesday's City Council meeting would create a special tax fund that would go toward reimbursing the private developer for costs related to the proposed $3 million building's construction.

A shell building – sometimes called a “spec” building – is a commercial or industrial space built without a specific tenant in mind, under the assumption that a company will want to locate there after construction.

“It's a shovel-ready site, if you will, for industrial buildings,” said Greg Leatherman, executive director of redevelopment for the city. “The key to this is, if there's a company that's looking to expand, they don't want to wait for a building to be built.”

Klink Group plans to build the proposed shell building on a 28-acre parcel along I-69, just west of the Indiana Department of Transportation's Fort Wayne district headquarters, Leatherman said.

Large, vacant spaces are in high demand locally as companies try to find existing facilities instead of building new ones, said Ashley Steenman, vice president of business development for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance.

“What we've started to notice, as the economy has started to pick up, the requests have been more so for existing buildings than for greenfield spaces,” Steenman said.

Many of the industrial spaces that were left vacant during the recession have started to fill up, leaving fewer to go around for potential employers, she said.

Between January 2011 and August 2012, Steenman said, 91 companies inquired with the Alliance about large, vacant commercial and industrial spaces. But because of the shortage, the Alliance could find viable sites for only 26 percent of those companies, she said.

Leatherman said the proposed shell building – the first of its kind in Fort Wayne – would encompass 75,000 square feet and could be expanded to 100,000 square feet depending on what type of company wants to use it.

The proposed tax district would collect the property taxes generated by the new building and reimburse the developer for interest paid on the loan to construct the building. The city would contribute up to $175,000 annually for up to five years, or a maximum of $875,000, according to a memo distributed to council members.