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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Terry Gleave, left, and Matt Carmean CQ of Gleave Construction assemble a security fence in the parking lot of the Senior Center on Monday, before site preparation work can begin for the Cindy's Diner move.

Ash project gets $4 million boost

FORT WAYNE – A busy day for city officials rounding up support – and cash – for the downtown Emerald Skyline project got off to a good start Monday.

Ash Brokerage plans an eight-story, 95,000-square-foot, $29 million headquarters building on the block bounded by Harrison, Wayne, Webster and Berry streets downtown. The company will move its 200 employees to the new building and add 115 more. Also in the project is a $30 million, 17-story residential tower of 100 town homes, apartments and condos by Hanning & Bean Enterprises.

Both projects will sit on top of a city-owned 1,200-space parking garage, which will be surrounded by street-level retail.

The Allen County Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board of Directors voted unanimously on Monday morning to increase its stake in the project from $6.5 million to $10.5 million; the increased amount will help cover the cost of a larger parking garage, which had been planned for only 750 spaces.

Officials say the larger garage will accommodate future development downtown, but there was another large expense they hadn’t counted on – increased excavation required by poor soils in the area. The garage is also more expensive to build than originally expected because of the weight and structure requirements needed to support the two towers to be built on top of it.

The city had been expecting to contribute about $19.5 million from various sources toward the project; that has now grown to $39 million – plus $10.5 million in interest and debt costs.

In addition to the funding from the Capital Improvements Board – which gets its money from the sales tax on food and beverages in Allen County – there is money from the special taxing district that covers downtown, County Economic Development Income Tax money, and $4 million of that has built up in the account used to make payments on the Grand Wayne Center expansion debt.

In addition, officials will ask the City Council to approve using $5 million from the Legacy Fund, which comes from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility.

CIB President Nancy Jordan said the larger parking garage makes sense and fits in with the agency’s mission of helping fund capital projects that attract and retain high-wage jobs.

“You would hate to have this open in 2016 and realize we need more parking,” Jordan said. “I think we’re going to see this as a multiplier project.”

Board member Mike Packnett said it is impossible to grasp what the Emerald Skyline will do for the community.

“In some ways I don’t think we can understand how big the impact of this project will be,” he said. “It can’t do anything but increase the momentum and confidence.”

For more on this story, see Tuesday’s print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit after 3 a.m. Tuesday.