A linchpin of Fort Wayne's planned riverfront development was pulled Monday with the announcement that Continental Property Group could not meet financing approvals specified by its development agreement with the city.
Continental of Wayzata, Minnesota, had been approved to build a $61.7 million mixed-use project known as the HIVE on the northeast corner of Harrison and Superior streets.
The project was to include residential units and retail space surrounding a 1,000-space parking garage to be used by residents, shoppers, government workers and the public.
At a news conference, Nancy Townsend, the city's redevelopment director, said Continental “did not achieve their financial commitments” while the city had met its end of the bargain.
The city now plans to “pivot” and refocus its energy on finding a new developer, she said.
“We want to get a great project, a quality project, but not at any cost to our community,” she said.
In an interview, Townsend said Continental would have needed to scale back or otherwise change the plans for the development, which will cost more than the company had anticipated.
But that was not locally acceptable because public agreements had been approved about a year ago, she said.
The deadline for the company to provide evidence of financing was Dec. 17, and extensions were provided but no resolution was reached, she added. No penalties were delineated in the city's development agreement, Townsend said.
Calls and messages left for Continental officials went unanswered Monday.
However, Townsend said officials with the developer “were obviously disappointed” in the situation, but the city already has heard “from other developers who are interested in the site.”
She would not specify who they are but said they're from the Fort Wayne area and elsewhere.
“I look forward to talking with them about creating a project that will be an asset to our community,” she said.
The city's next steps are to issue a new request for proposals in the next few weeks and then review submissions. A new plan might be ready by next construction season, Townsend said.
The six-level project, which would include 228 residences and stores with a view of the St. Marys River, was lauded by city officials as being a key to riverfront development.
City Council President John Crawford called the project “a tipping point project” because it attracted private investment to the area primed by public-funded improvements.
“This is the one we've been waiting for,” he said when the project was announced in December 2017. “Everything we've done is to get up to this point.”
Townsend said surface parking for government workers will be provided at the site while alternative plans continue.
She noted that preliminary site preparation and environmental remediation have been completed by the city. Those steps included demolishing the Smurfit-Stone building and moving the Baltes building across Superior Street for eventual use as a Hall's restaurant.
Townsend could not say what effect the delay might have on other nearby development plans or businesses, including The Landing and the Provenance Hotels “boutique hotel” project.
In a statement, Mayor Tom Henry said he is “confident we will find a developer that has the capacity to make this prime riverfront site something we can all be proud of.”
The site is still considered desirable, and market research shows the downtown can support additional retail and residential units, Townsend said.
“We will have a project on this site, and it will have public parking, and it will be something this community wants and needs,” Townsend said.