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Janelle Sou Roberts | The Journal Gazette
City Council members, from left, Marty Bender, Liz Brown, John Shoaff and Karen Goldner listen at a meeting about Harrison Square and tax abatement.

Condo buyers get extra tax break

Council OKs deal for those at home in The Harrison

Prospective owners of the newest downtown condominiums will now have two tax incentives to buy.

The Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday voted 8-1 to abate taxes for the $20.3 million condominium/retail piece of Harrison Square, known as The Harrison.

The abatement will save $850,000 over 10 years with current tax rates, but it won’t only go to Barry Real Estate, the project developer. Greg Leatherman, redevelopment executive director, said the abatements will transfer to people who buy the individual condominiums.

This means owners of the to-be-built dwellings will not only get a residential homestead credit but a 10-year tax abatement as well. The developer will keep the abatement for the retail portion of the structure.

Three residents spoke against the abatement, citing questions about its merit and legality. Jeff Pruitt, a local resident and blogger, said the council is giving a tax break to people who need it least: those who can afford the luxury condominiums.

“The council should be helping people who need it the most,” he said.

John Kalb, a local resident and avid Harrison Square opponent, also questioned the legality of giving an abatement to a project that might include a wine store. Elissa McGauley, senior economic development specialist for Fort Wayne, said it would be illegal for a wine or liquor store to get an abatement, so that could further reduce the abatement for the developer if such a store moved in there. But she said a restaurant that serves alcohol would not cause problems.

Councilman Mitch Harper, R-1st, was the lone member to oppose the abatement. He said he would have preferred to hold the issue until the state finalizes its property tax plan. Because the plan could cap the amounts of property taxes people can pay, tax abatements could cost city and other governments needed revenue.

Councilman Tim Pape, D-5th, said the council should be doing all it can to support development in the city’s core. While the jobs created by the project are mostly low-paying service jobs, Pape said the development will help entice other companies to retain and attract employees to the area.

“If we want to compete, we need to attract high-wage workers,” he said.

The Harrison will feature 62 luxury condominiums, more than 24,000 square feet of retail space and underground parking.

It is a prominent part of Harrison Square, which will also feature a Courtyard by Marriott with parking garage and a city-owned baseball stadium. The Harrison and the ballpark are scheduled to open by spring 2009.