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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Extension of deadline crucial next step in securing anchor tenant for Electric Works

News-Sentinel.com reporter/columnist Kevin Leininger broke the news Saturday that RTM Ventures LLC said it has received a letter of intent from a company wanting to locate its headquarters in 200,000 square feet of the proposed Electric Works development, which could make it the anchor tenant in the proposed revival of the former General Electric campus on Broadway.

RTM partner Josh Parker says confirming an anchor tenant would be “a game-changer” in the whole process of redeveloping the old GE plant buildings into a $230 million “mixed-use” project that would include shops, offices, restaurants and more.

However, Parker says to make that happen, he needs another deadline extension, this time for leasing, funding and construction documents. He said moving the date back from Feb. 1 to April 30 (and to June 30 for closing), would give RTM the time it needs to do such things as provide more office space by eliminating 60 planned residential units.

We encourage Mayor Tom Henry to grant the extension, even though RTM has already received two from the city, including the mayor’s extension of the developer’s previous Sept. 1 compliance deadline.

As Leininger reported Saturday, the name of the company, which does not currently operate in Fort Wayne, has not been disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement. Parker told him that Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. all contributed in efforts to attract the company.

Mayor Henry and others have considered the lack of an anchor tenant for Electric Works a black cloud hovering over the project. Completion of a lease with such a company is a crucial step developers have been working on for quite some time.

The city’s current deadline requires RTM to have 250,000 square feet leased, along with certain private financial commitments, by Feb. 1. The unnamed company’s corporate headquarters, Parker says, increases the space covered by all the letters of intent from potential tenants to 415,068 square feet.

Mayor Henry gave a speech to the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne Monday during which he talked about the developers being close to landing a large company interested in locating its headquarters in up to 200,000 square feet of space at the abandoned GE property.

“And they’re very serious,” he said, according to a report by WPTA21. “Wouldn’t that be something for downtown Fort Wayne? We’re probably talking in the area of 500 jobs.”

While the mayor has reportedly voiced his reluctance previously to extending another deadline for RTM, now that this letter of intent is in hand, we believe he should certainly let the process continue.

Henry told WPTA21 Monday that if the tenant signs a lease, he would expect an announcement in a matter of weeks. And that company would then join Parkview Health, Indiana Tech and Fort Wayne Community Schools among the high-profile local employers that plan to lease space in Electric Works. Others include Joseph Decuis restaurant, Indiana University Research and Technology Corp., Fort Wayne Metals Research Products Corp., as well as non-profits Fort Wayne Public Market and Three Rivers Music Theatre.

Leininger wrote in his column Saturday that “Henry should seize the opportunity to support what has the potential to be a truly transformational project. The impact of a 200,000 square-foot corporate headquarters just south of downtown could promote not only the vitality of Electric Works but also of the neighborhood and entire city.”

We agree and ask the mayor to grant RTM the necessary extension to make the leasing of an anchor tenant possible.