Sometimes getting the best result is worth waiting for. City officials hope that's true of their efforts to redevelop about 3.6 acres west of Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne.
The city bought and cleared the land along Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue last year, hoping to convert what had been mostly blighted housing into a multimillion-dollar park-like residential area.
But when the Redevelopment Commission sought ideas from qualified developers earlier this year, none of the five responses offered the hoped-for combination of vision and private financial wherewithal, according to Greg Leatherman, director of Community Development and Planning. So until April 21 the city will be accepting bids from developers who are able to complete the hoped-for project and willing to buy the land for the city's minimum $1.57 million asking price.
Given the initial round of responses, Leatherman said, the city is not expecting to receive any acceptable bids. And that's just fine, because the city would then legally be able to negotiate the best possible deal with the developer of its choice.
And that, Leatherman said, offers the best chance for a project that is both appealing and built with as little government subsidy as possible.
“It wasn't a ruse. We got some wonderful ideas and design concepts (in the first proposals),” Leatherman said, noting that the timing of the new round of bids is advantageous to the city because other projects – such as converting Ewing and Fairfield to two-way traffic and greater awareness of the nearly $71 million Ash Brokerage/Hanning and Bean office, commercial and housing project – should make the city's land more attractive and therefore more conducive to private investment.
According to the Redevelopment Commission's specifications, the city wants to see market-rate apartments on the site, with a preference for below-ground parking. A minimum of 148 one, two and three-bedroom apartments is desired, with a minimum value of $20 million, including $16.5 million in private investment. Whether that target will be met remains to be seen, but Leatherman said whatever incentives the city eventually offers will be more than justified by the results.
Previously, he said, the land generated about $8,000 in annual property taxes. Once the project is complete, he said, the property will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes every year.