In a 5-3 vote Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council approved a vacant-building tax abatement for a new health care facility for seniors.
The development, which will be on East Washington Boulevard next to the planned facility for the Rescue Mission, will cost about $2.1 million, said Mike Mattingly, a principal at Avenue Development LLC, which is developing the property.
Project plans also state that 37 new full-time jobs will be created as a result of the development. The properties in question are at 436, 502, and 508 E. Washington Blvd.
Oak Street Health, which focuses on health care for seniors on Medicare, will also include a community center that will function as a meeting space and a warming/cooling center during extreme weather conditions.
"They’re really a grassroots organization that’s serving the community," Mattingly said. "These are seniors that – especially in urbanized areas – do not have a lot of access to computers and maybe even phones. In the community center, they’ll have activities to teach them how to pay utility bills. They’ll have parties where they’ll offer bingo. In the winter time, they make sure to open their doors as warming centers for people in need."
Though similar to personal property tax abatements for established businesses, vacant building abatements are not phased in over time. Rather, they completely wipe out the personal property taxes on the structure for the duration of the abatement. In this case, the abatement is set to last for one year.
Mattingly also said he does not believe the development will compete with the Rescue Mission, which is planning to build a new facility next door.
"As far as the Rescue Mission next door, that will be outstanding; ... really, it will be kind of a collective note of having different aspects of the uninsured population, our insured population and also the community center which we’re going to include in our facility," Mattingly said. "I’m sure they will have a community center as well and it will be very similar. I wouldn’t look at those two things as competing. They’re double the benefit, really."
Councilmen Paul Ensley, R-1st, Russ Jehl, R-2nd, and Michael Barranda, R-at large, voted against the measure. Later in the evening, Jehl said he would be willing to participate in discussions to potentially change the policy surrounding abatements for vacant buildings.
"I have looked at some of the recent vacant building abatements the council has approved and I can’t say that it’s been making a difference," Jehl said. "Almost all of the ones in the last couple years have been projects that would transpire anyway, and most are attached to much larger abatements."
Councilmen Tom Didier, R-3rd, was present for voting, and Jason Arp, R-4th, was absent Tuesday.
This story has been corrected to show that the vote was 5-3 and that Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd was present for voting.