The $71 million Ash Brokerage project downtown is moving forward.
Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission members began the process of clearing the way for the massive corporate, residential and retail project Monday by voting to purchase 10 downtown properties to house the 17-story, multi-use structure and parking garage.
The purchases, which will be closed on over the next few months, total $4.3 million; the properties were appraised at $3.2 million.
The land covers nearly a city block between Wayne and Berry streets from Webster to Harrison streets, with the exception of the five-story brick building at Berry and Webster, home to attorneys Shambaugh, Kast, Beck & Williams. The purchases approved Monday are all the property needed for the project, with the exception of Salon Plaza, a tiny park that will be sold to the city for its appraised value of $39,250.
Redevelopment Director Greg Leatherman said the prices paid reflect the square-foot price the market for the core of downtown now demands, and that control of the land is critical to any development happening there.
We truly believe this will be transformational for downtown, said John Urbahns, the citys director of community development. This was headed for greenfield development we were able to convince them to take a second look downtown.
The development includes an eight-story, $20 million headquarters for Ash Brokerage, which will move its 200 current employees there and will add 115 more within three years. The average annual wage is $60,000, plus benefits. It also includes a $32 million residential package of townhomes, apartments and condos by Hanning & Bean Enterprises. Those projects will sit on top of a city-owned 780-space parking garage.
The money for the land purchases comes from the Civic Center Tax Increment Financing district, which covers the area. A TIF district uses the increase in property taxes from new development to pay for capital improvements in that district. Usually, those improvements are infrastructure improvements, such as sewers or roads, that enabled the development in the first place, but the money can also be spent on improvements that have a public benefit.
Leatherman said the Civic Center TIF districts biggest obligation is to make loan payments on Grand Wayne Center. Officials also recently said the TIF district would give $750,000 toward the Embassy Theatre Foundations efforts to bring life to the long-defunct Indiana Hotel. Officials said the TIF has about $5.2 million on hand, enough to cover the $4.3 million cost of the land, and will receive another $650,000 before the end of the year.
Members voted 5-0 to approve the purchases, with Karl Bandemer abstaining, because he worked with the Downtown Development Trust on securing the options for purchase and has been instrumental in the project.
Members also voted to approve an agreement with Hoch Associates to design the parking garage and coordinate with the architects handling the other parts of the project for $875,000, which Leatherman said is less than the industry standard of 7 percent of the cost of the project.
On Thursday, city officials will ask the Capital Improvements Board for $6.5 million over 10 years to make the bond payments on the cost of building the $11.8 million parking garage.