In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Fort Wayne Legacy Joint Funding Committee approved a $1 million loan for renovations to Quimby Village’s Clyde Theatre.
"I’ve been working on this project for five years and I think it’s going to be a great project for the neighborhoods, for the city of Fort Wayne, for the region," said Rick Kinney, owner of Even Keel Event Productions, which owns and is renovating the theater.
The Legacy Fund consists of money generated by the lease and sale of Fort Wayne’s old power utility.
The Clyde Theatre closed in 1994 and has not reopened since, despite multiple attempts to repurpose the facility. A successful renovation, supporters say, will be a catalyst to revitalize the troubled shopping center south of downtown.
The proposal scored an average 3.6 out of a possible 5 on the criteria the committee uses to evaluate projects up for consideration. A score of 4 would mean the proposal automatically moves forward to the City Council table. Although the Clyde Theatre project didn’t earn enough points to automatically move forward, committee chairman Ron Turpin said the project received one of the highest scores the board has seen in an application to date.
An interest rate for the loan hasn’t yet been determined, but Turpin said the Legacy Fund’s finance committee plans to determine a rate in the near future. The loan will be repaid by funds generated by the Quimby Village Tax Increment Financing District. Kinney has said he will not apply for a tax abatement for the project.
TIFs are generally seen by municipalities as an economic development tool in which property taxes generated in a designated district can be captured and used for improvements within that district.
In addition to Legacy Funds, the project has received tentative approval for a $1 million grant from northeast Indiana’s Regional Development Authority, as part of the Regional Cities Initiative. The project also recently received a $1.5 million investment from Chuck Surack, founder and CEO of Sweetwater Sound.
Kinney said renovating the theater will help draw visitors, particularly millennials, to Fort Wayne.
"Since the Regional Cities announcement on Tuesday, I’ve gotten more than 25 emails, including one I got last night from a fellow that’s lived in the same house for 60 years, there. He’s nearly 90 years old and he’s excited about the development," Surack said. "So it’s not just young people."
The proposal still needs to be reviewed by the City Council, where approval will require six votes.
The city administration and council will also collaborate to determine the loan process moving forward for the fund’s finance committee, which is a separate entity, Turpin said.
Once that process is determined, the funding committee will hold a special meeting to approve it.
Parks Director Al Moll, who also sits on the Legacy Fund committee, was absent Thursday.