Fort Wayne City Council members outline plan to inject millions into ‘Electric Works’ project, but do they have the votes?

Some City Council members say they are willing to consider millions of dollars in funding to convert the former General Electric campus into the "Electric Works." (Courtsy image)
John Crawford
Geoff Paddock

City Council members Friday laid out a tentative blueprint for the infusion of millions of public dollars into the “Electric Works” project, but whether their outline represents enough members to win actual dollars remains uncertain.

John Crawford, R-at large, and Geoff Paddock, D-5th said at an afternoon news conference they will introduce a non-binding resolution Tuesday expressing council’s willingness to provide $13.6 million in loans and grants from the city’s Legacy fund, along with $3 million in economic development income taxes. The two councilmen also signaled a willingness to consider earmarking $3 million in Legacy funds as back up for a bond for the project and a separate $6 million bond to be issued by the city’s Redevelopment Commission and repaid by taxes generated by the project. Council could also consider other incentives, they said, including some backed by property taxes if necessary.

Crawford said he believes he has “pretty close to five” members who would support the proposed funding framework for the mixed-use project on the former General Electric Campus, the $213 million first phase of which anticipates $65 million in local public funds. Expenditures from the Legacy Fund created through the sale of the city’s old electric utility requires the support of six of nine council members, however.

But Crawford said it’s important to provide as much clarity as possible now because work must begin by July or developers could become ineligible for some anticipated tax credits.

The project has been awarded a $50 million tax credit by the Indiana Economic Development Commission — the largest in its history — and is also seeking federal Historic Tax Credits and New Market Tax Credits. Earlier this month, in fact, the city was notified it had been authorized to approve $55 million in New Market Credits.

“If the project does not go forward, that $100 million dollars of state and federal funding will be lost and go to other cities,” the resolution states, “(and) without an initial favorable review of the broad outline of the plan for local government funding, the developers will not be able to approach lenders for the loans required and the project will die now.”

“All this is preliminary,” Crawford said. “We’ll get the actual numbers later, but this will give developers some idea (of what council may be willing to do) . . . A local match in funding is needed to receive these other public sources and secure additional private funding.”

Details of the proposal outlined by Crawford and Paddock include a $6 million loan from the Legacy corpus to the Redevelopment Commission, to be repaid by taxes generated by Electric Works; a grant of half of Legacy’s incoming revenues between 2019 and 2024 totaling nearly $7.6 million; and $3 million in economic development taxes between 2020 and 2026.

In a statement, Paddock said he supports the plan because “Electric Works is a truly special project that can rejuvenate a distressed area of the community. We have the opportunity here, in working with RTM Ventures, to redevelop over 30 acres of vacant buildings into prime real estate, adding vitality and jobs into the neighborhood and strengthening Fort Wayne’s downtown core.”

The first of the project’s two phases will focus on buildings west of Broadway, producing 224,000 square feet of office space, 113,000 square feet of institutional/education space, 83,000 square feet for retail/restaurants and a food hall, 83,000 square feet of dedicated innovation space/facilities, 82,000 square feet of residential space and 31,000 square feet of amenity/recreational space. That doesn’t even include equally ambitious plans for the campus east of Broadway.

The Capital Improvement Board and the Allen County Commissioners previously approved loans totaling $3 million to remove environmental contamination, and the CIB Thursday rejected the developers’ request to use $1.5 million for up-front “soft” costs. The CIB also said it will seek an independent analysis of the project’s financial and market projections. The project’s first phase anticipates $33.5 million in historic credits, $30 million in new market credits and $86 million in private equity and debt.

Developers predict the project will generate more than $518 million in taxes over 20 years and create 2,800 permanent jobs and nearly 2,000 construction jobs.

Even if the resolution passes, its language makes it clear that council would “continue to undertake its research and due diligence.”

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