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UPDATED: ‘Electric Works’ project gets $3 million for environmental clean up

Buildings on the former General Electric campus will have to be cleaned up before they can be turned into the "Electric Works." (News-Sentinel file photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The headline in the print edition of Wednesday’s News-Sentinel incorrectly stated Wednesday’s contribution to the cost of clean up of the Electric Works project. The correct amount is $3 million.

For the second time in less than a month, local taxpayers will fund an environmental clean up in preparation for a major economic development project.

The Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board on Wednesday approved a $2 million loan to the developers of the Electric Works, a mixed-use project on the former General Electric campus, which will help remove lead paint and other contaminants in a clean up expected to cost about $7 million. The Allen County Commissioners will provide an additional loan of $1 million, and both loans will be distributed through the city’s Redevelopment Commission and could eventually be converted to grants. The Capital Improvement Board controls revenues from the county’s food and beverage tax and would help remove or contain various contaminants left over from more than a century of heavy industrial use.

Wednesday’s unanimous support follows last week’s decision by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to award a $50 million tax credit to the project, the first phase of which is expected to cost about $213 million. Decatur-based developer Kevan Biggs said other funding sources include a $60 million loan, $30 million historic tax credit, $62 million in local incentives, an $8 million New Market tax credit and private equity of about $18 million. Biggs said the project will seek an undetermined amount from the city’s Legacy fund early next year.

Proposed changes to the federal tax code should not affect the credits, said Biggs, who expects construction to begin by July.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost $213 million and will feature 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. Indiana Tech announced Tuesday it intends to lease 10,000 square feet on the campus. Construction could begin next year.

The innovation space would provide room for start-up companies and would reach out to traditionally underserved groups, Biggs said. “I want Electric Works to be the most inclusive place in Fort Wayne,” he added, noting that tenants will be expected to give back to the community in some tangible way.

Biggs said more than 100 prospective tenants have expressed interest in locating in the project, 48 percent of them representing new ventures. The first phase of Electric Works ultimately is expected to create $387 million in annual economic impact, repaying the community’s $65 million investment within 13 years.

Earlier this month City Council agreed to buy the 30-acre “North River” site for $4.6 million. The vacant land was most recently a scrap yard, and the city will pay to remove remaining metals and other contaminants in a clean up expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The land just north of downtown is considered crucial to development downtown and along the rivers. IU Health has expressed interest in the site.

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