Environmental remediation work on the $220 million Electric Works project south of downtown Fort Wayne has begun and officials remain optimistic about the development's chances for success.
The developers, however, still need to raise $20 million to $30 million to support the project, they said.
RTM Ventures, the developers of the project, have secured about a dozen letters of intent and leases for about 200,000 to 225,000 square feet of space in the upcoming development. RTM spokesman Kevin Erb told reporters today that the project is on track to meet a Nov. 1 deadline – two months later than a Sept. 1 deadline established in April.
The development must secure leases or letters of intent for a total of 250,000 square feet of the development under the economic development agreement RTM Ventures signed with the city last year.
"We're well on our way to doing that, so we feel good about hitting that deadline for later this year and starting construction later this year," Erb said.
Reporters were taken on a tour, led by City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, of the project's west campus Thursday, in which project representatives highlighted their vision for the development, which includes office, retail and residential space, as well as a large food hall and innovation center. Crews throughout the development were working on removing lead paint and asbestos from the site.
Under the original economic development agreement with the city, signed in August 2018, deadlines for leasing commitments and final fund closing requirements were Dec. 31, 2018 and June 30, respectively. Those deadlines were extended in April to July 1 for financing commitments and Sept. 1 for closing conditions.
If the required commitments are not secured by Nov. 1, there is a chance that the deadline could be pushed back even further, Erb said. The city and county, he said, have been "incredibly flexible and supportive."
"They want to see it move forward and they're excited about the project," Erb said. "There's definitely a chance those dates may move again and if that happens we'll certainly deal with that. The important thing is to get to closing and start construction."
Erb admitted that shifting timelines can cause concerns or skepticism from area residents and officials, but noted that the project is large and complicated with a lot of moving parts.
"The development team and even representatives from the city would tell you it's not uncommon at all to have dates move back more than once just because of all the moving parts and pieces," Erb said. "Certainly we can understand that people might be skeptical or concerned if dates move ... we are not concerned, the city is not concerned about any of that."
Erb also said that the development needs to raise between $20 million and $30 million in private capital to support the project.
"We are in advanced talks with a number of different sources for that, including some local sources," he said. "We want to make sure there's as much local investment in the project as possible, both public and private."
The environmental remediation taking place on the project's west campus shows that the development is moving forward, Paddock said.
"We wouldn't be doing what we're doing if the developers weren't confident that this is going to go forward," he said.
Paddock said he's been working on the project for a long time and noted that he's been working with Mayor Tom Henry and the city council to make sure there's support for the development.
"I think we're all solidly together on this. It is a big project, it is a huge undertaking," he said. "But it has such a potential for positive impact for the city of Fort Wayne and for particularly the area I represent."