The city of Fort Wayne on Wednesday announced the selection of a residential developer for the Ash Skyline Plaza project.
Great Lakes Capital of South Bend will invest $40 million in a 124-apartment upscale residential complex dubbed Skyline Tower. The apartments, one- and two-bedroom units averaging about 800 to 1,200 square feet, will rent for $1,200 to $1,800 a month, according to Brad Toothaker, president and CEO of the Bradley Co.and managing partner of Great Lakes Capital.
The tower will also feature retail space on the first floor and office space on the second floor for a total of 170,000 square feet.
"Providing additional housing and retail opportunities in the heart of our city undoubtedly positions us as a destination place for our citizens, visitors, families and businesses," Mayor Tom Henry said. "We have done our due diligence. We’ve taken time because we wanted to ensure that this residential piece is reflective of the tremendous investments taking place in our downtown and in our great community."
In September 2014, Henry announced that Fort Wayne-based Hanning & Bean, the project’s initial residential developer, had pulled out of the project. At that time, Bill Bean, the firm’s vice president, said the company had reached an impasse over the construction deadline, which would have cost the firm hundreds of thousands of dollars.
City officials originally said they expected to have a new developer in place by early 2015. By May, however, no announcement had been made. Officials attributed the delay in part to a planned application for funds from the federal New Markets Tax Credit program. Those credits were available because of a commercial component of the project that wasn’t included in previous designs.
"We were not first in place, and sometimes that will demonstrate a little bit of the challenges involved in the project," Toothaker said of the delay.
"A mixed-use project of this magnitude, being 12 stories and 170,000 square feet and $40 million in total cost, definitely requires multiple layers of finance and public involvement, both city, state and federal government. In putting all those pieces together, the full economics of the project, it just took some time to refine them."
Great Lakes Capital will use Community Revitalization Enhancement Credits from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and federal New Markets Tax Credits to help finance its portion of the project.
Under the agreement signed Wednesday, the city is expected to contribute $4 million toward the project, which will be paid for through a bond issue. The bond issue must be approved by the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission and Fort Wayne City Council.
The original project with Hanning & Bean also involved a $4 million bond supported by tax increment financing district funds, city spokesman John Perlich said. Most of the bond debt for the new tower will be paid back through TIF funds as well, he said.
Property tax revenue generated within a TIF district can be captured and used for improvements within that district.
Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, said he’s sure the council will render a decision on the project’s merits.
"What we always look at is the total picture – not only this project, but where is our bonding capacity for the city as a whole, what else do we think is coming down the pipe this year – which there will be other things," Crawford said. "So there’s no one thing we look at. We look at the whole thing."
Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, who represents the district in which the project is located, praised the city’s efforts in moving it forward and said he believes the project will be difficult to vote down.
"It would be very difficult to turn something like that down because of the, I think, very positive impact that a project like this makes, not only for downtown but for the entire community," he said.
"The number of private-sector developments that could spring forward from such a development is something that I’m going to be looking at very closely. We’ve talked about a downtown grocery store and more things downtown. This is one of those footprints that will help bring that forward."
Work on the Skyline garage and Ash Brokerage headquarters is nearing completion, with the garage slated to open early next month. The Ash Brokerage building is expected to open in May.
Construction on the residential tower is expected to begin this summer and take about a year to 18 months to complete.