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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 8:40 pm

Council approves 25-year agreement for riverfront parking garage

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

In a 6-2 vote Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council approved a 25-year lease agreement for a 1,000-space parking garage attached to the upcoming mixed-use building along the city's downtown riverfront. 

Under the lease agreement, the city will pay Minnesota-based Continental Property Group, which is developing the site, $1.5 million a year for 25 years, for a total of about $37 million. Annual rent will be paid out of property taxes generated by the project, the riverfront portion of the city's local income tax fund, parking revenue from the garage, and the county's economic development income tax funds. 

The agreement includes an option for the city to buy the parking garage after the 25-year term is up.

Councilmen Paul Ensley, R-1st, and Jason Arp, R-4th, voted against the lease. Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, abstained from Tuesday's vote because he would like more time to review the lease agreement and revised financials surrounding the project.

Ensley said he could not support the lease agreement because it uses more county economic development income tax money than it does local income tax funds earmarked for riverfront.

"That's money that could be used for roads, could be used for sidewalks, could be used for neighborhood parks and we're going to put that toward this project not because there's not money in the (local income tax fund), but because we want to use that (local income tax) money and have that for who knows what else." 

The project, which will include 150 apartments and 20,000 square feet of retail space, will sit on about 3.34 acres of land at the northeast corner of Harrison and Superior streets, including the former Smurfit building, on which demolition was recently completed. 

Despite opposition from several council members, Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, described the planned development as a "tipping-point project."

"This developer came to us, we didn't come to them and there is a larger portion of private dollars in this than in the previous things we've done downtown, which is exactly what we've been aiming for," Crawford said. "So I think this is hopefully the beginning of others like this."