The Fort Wayne parks board and two entities have reached a settlement on land acquisitions and relocation expenses for the final three properties that are part of the first phase of the city’s riverfront redevelopment, city officials announced Wednesday.
In June, the Fort Wayne Board of Park Commissioners sued Gregory K. Cambray, owner of Cambray & Associates, and Red Bird Properties. They own the final three properties along the south side of the St. Marys River that are needed for the proposed development, and they declined city offers to buy them. Red Bird tenant Burkhart Advertising was also named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit.
The city sought condemnation by eminent domain.
On Wednesday, city officials announced the parks board, Red Bird Properties and Cambray & Associates have reached agreements "on the core settlement terms." Red Bird Properties will be paid $1.3 million, and Cambray & Associates will be paid $850,000, city officials said.
"The basis of final settlement amounts to be paid to the property owners included review and consideration of the rising values of downtown development projects," a statement from the Parks and Recreation Department said.
Once the purchase agreements are signed, a closing date for the transfer of the properties will be scheduled. Once property closings have been completed, the condemnation lawsuits will be dismissed, the city said.
To allow ample time for Red Bird and Cambray to move their business operations to other locations, the parks board will not take immediate possession of the properties after the closing dates of the sales. The possession date agreed upon will allow the riverfront construction timeline to proceed on schedule.
The case had been set for a bench trial this month, but it was canceled after Allen County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Felts withdrew himself from presiding over it. Allen Superior Court Judge David Avery was later named special judge.
Parks and Recreation Director Al Moll and Mark Becker, deputy director of riverfront development, will appear before the board of the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority on Tuesday to request $5.276 million in Regional Cities funding for the riverfront development’s first phase.
"The settlements of these property acquisitions was vital as we approach next week’s request for Regional Cities funding," Moll said in a statement. "It was important to keep the project moving forward for many reasons – for construction to stay on schedule, to be able to tell potential funders that we had possession of the properties, and to limit non-construction expenditures."
Mayor Tom Henry said: "Riverfront development is critical to the current and future success of Fort Wayne and the region as a point of destination. We’re looking forward to the next steps in the process as we work together to make a meaningful and lasting difference to encourage job and business growth and provide quality-of-place amenities to attract and retain residents."
City officials said the first phase of riverfront development will be focused on the public spaces in a park setting. Development would occur on the south and north sides of the St. Marys River between Harrison Street and the historic Wells Street Bridge.
Highlights of the plans include a promenade, park pavilion, event lawn, entry plaza with sculpture/signage, urban bioswale, educational water feature, urban streetscape, central plaza, urban riverfront terraces, elevated boardwalk, dock, interactive sculpture and children’s play area.
The team leading the design work is Riverworks Design Group, composed of Design Collaborative, Forum Studio, Hoch Associates, Engineering Resources, American Structurepoint and One Lucky Guitar. The Hagerman Group serves as construction manager.