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Wednesday, May 30, 2018 1:00 am

Electric Works funding in view

'A lot of smart people' meeting, forum told

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

A public funding proposal for the $221 million first phase of the Electric Works development could be unveiled this week, the project's developers said Tuesday.

More than 100 residents and several elected city officials attended a community forum at Grand Wayne Center hosted by RTM Ventures, the firm handling the redevelopment of the former General Electric campus south of downtown Fort Wayne.

The principal partners in RTM Ventures are Kevan Biggs of Biggs Development, Josh Parker of Cross Street Partners and Jeff Kingsbury of Greenstreet Ltd., who were on hand to field questions.

Topics covered Tuesday included how RTM Ventures plans to protect public investment in the project; the development's impact on the surrounding neighborhoods; and tentative plans for future phases.

Parker also took time to answer a question about the redeveloped American Tobacco project in Durham, North Carolina, and to stress that neither that project nor the development team has declared bankruptcy.

In a presentation before the question-and-answer session, Kingsbury outlined the project's financing in the form of a large bank loan, investment from private sources, various federal tax credits, and a $50 million commitment in public money from the city of Fort Wayne. Kingsbury said the development agreement could be announced this week.

Last week, Mayor Tom Henry announced the Electric Works development would receive $12 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits. City Council is expected to soon consider rezoning for the Electric Works site.

“A county, city and (Capital Improvement Board) working group is considering the local funding strategy,” Kingsbury said. “There's been a lot of smart people that have been meeting, we know, to think about all sorts of potential iterations of how this funding could come into the project.”

Kingsbury added that RTM Ventures believes it's “really up to the community” to decide the mechanism through which to fund the project. The city's Legacy Joint Funding Committee heard a proposal for $13.6 million in the form of a loan and a grant last week.

The Legacy Fund is composed of money generated by the lease and sale of Fort Wayne's old power utility. Henry has also suggested that an additional $12 million come from Allen County funds to fill the rest of the funding gap.

“It's not up to us to say Legacy should be this much or that much or whatever,” Kingsbury said. “We're really letting the community define what that is.”

The developers also provided additional insight into the project's future phases, which includes plans for a structured parking garage wrapped in 150 to 200 residential units of “workforce housing.” That's not part of the first phase but would be built shortly thereafter.

Workforce housing, Biggs said, is the top tier of affordable housing, which means people making 60 percent of the area median income would qualify. Biggs also said there are other housing options being considered for the second phase, as well.

“It's very important to us that we maintain the fabric of this community and that there's not a gentrification that happens with this huge investment that's made,” Biggs said.

dgong@jg.net