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Ash Brokerage Corp. to locate national headquarters downtown in a $71 million venture

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - 10:06 am

Mayor Tom Henry verified Monday what has been rumored for several weeks: Ash Brokerage will locate its new national headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne.

The site for the new location on the corner of Harrison and Berry is currently home to Cindy's Diner, but Mayor Tom Henry said the city already has found several potential locations for the diner and will help the business finance the move.

The new location also incorporates downtown housing and retail into the plans, and will be a $71 million investment in the heart of the city. The project is a collaboration among the city; Ash Brokerage Corp.; Bill Bean, vice president of Hanning & Bean Enterprises; and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

The city has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ash Brokerage and Hanning & Bean Enterprises for the two major projects.

There will be 95,000 square feet of office space, a parking garage and 21,600 square feet of retail on the first floor. Ash will bring 200 employees to the downtown area. Tim Ash, president and chief executive officer of Ash Brokerage, said the company would add 115 more jobs 2017. The average wage is $60,000 plus benefits. Ash's investment would be $19.6 million.

Hanning & Bean Enterprises will build a residential development with 80 apartments, 10-14 condominiums and six townhouses. The parking garage will have green space on the roof.

Going green is nothing new for Hanning & Bean. The Swiss Re building, near Interstate 69, is a Silver LEED-certified office building. Bean said they plan to incorporate some of the same environmentally friendly designs in this office building. They will use geothermal heat and build to the Silver LEED standard.

“We will be looking seriously at the environmental footprint of the building,” Bean said. Although it costs more to build this way, after three years of operating expenses, some of investments they made to the Swiss Re building are paying off.

Although they have only a little experience in residential property, Bean said, their design and conceptual experience is every bit as important as having residential experience.

Bean said he sees no reason why the brownstones won't be as successful here as they have been in other cities. They will face Webster Street, so when residents walk out the door they will see a church, the main library and, down the street, Parkview Field.

As far as downtown grocery shopping is concerned, Bean said he has made a commitment that there will be a grocery store in close proximity to the development when it opens in three years. Whether it is in the building or nearby remains up in the air, but Bean said it will exist.

Henry said they will use very little new tax money but will use Legacy money, food and beverage tax money plus money from the State to put the financial package together. Henry said he couldn't give exact breakdown of the numbers yet as they are still putting it together.

Ash said originally Ash Brokerage had been looking out in the county for a new headquarters space but IEDC President Eric Doden, who is from Fort Wayne, suggested the possibility of a downtown location, and things began to happen.

“There has not been a downtown development in 20 years, we are excited to do this,” Ash said.

Ash said he sees the property as the heart of the downtown and he will be closer to the local firms they do business with. Weigand Associates, Design Collaborative and MSKTD & Associates Inc. will collaborate on the design and construction of the project.