LETTER TO THE EDITOR: We should ‘manage expectations’ on Electric Works

The euphoria surrounding the Electric Works project is unprecedented in our community. The public has spoken and inspite of how few details are known, there is a sense that while risky, we should commit substantial taxpayer dollars to this private enterprise. As we approach the next few hurdles in this project’s timeline, it is imperative that we all “manage our expectations.” This is an extremely complex project from both a financial and construction standpoint. Converting a 1-million-square-foot factory into commercial, residential and office use is a daunting task that is understood by very few. At this point, there are more questions than answers and it our duty as a community to use our best efforts to learn as much as possible about the details of the project, the reasonableness of their assumptions for success and study the proposed timeline.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and the developers are to be commended for orchestrating this transformative project, but we all need to be honest about what we know and what we expect. Thus far we have only heard the positives about how wonderful it will be with offices, restaurants, boutiques and lofts. Let’s not forget that both studies supporting all of this have been arranged and paid for by the developers. It seems we should learn something from the arena studies and have an unbiased appraisal of the project.

It is the obligation of the city, the Redevelopment Commission, the County Commissioners, County Council, the Capital Improvement Board, the Legacy Committee and City Council to perform their required due diligence on the project before voting the commit taxpayer dollars. We must temper our enthusiasm with the facts that history tells us about projects of this magnitude. 1) It will cost more than we expect. 2) It will take longer than we anticipate. 3) before completion, it will most likely go through some sort of restructuring, foreclosure or bankruptcy. This does not mean we should not proceed, but we must do so with our eyes wide open.

To date, there has been little if any negotiation between the developers and any public body. The developers have made demands but the city has made none. That is about to change. The next crucial step in the process is to craft a development agreement between the developers and the Redevelopment Commission that deals with all aspects of the project.

To be successful, this must be negotiated in good faith between the parties without public pressure and political posturing. This is a significant step in our continued community progress. Let’s take our time and make sure we get it right.

— Don Steininger, Fort Wayne

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