A busy day for city officials rounding up support – and cash – for the downtown Ash Brokerage project was successful 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 townhomes, 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.
Monday morning, the Allen County Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board of Directors voted unanimously 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.
Monday afternoon, the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission unanimously approved the financing for the project, which includes a $22.6 million, 20-year loan. Members also approved dedicating tax increment financing district money toward the cost, which comes from taxes paid by new development within the district.
They also added a part of the project area to that taxing district and approved $330,000 to move Cindy’s Diner from its current site to the Community Center parking lot. The money will cover reconfiguring the parking lot to ensure no parking spots are lost, moving and rebuilding the shuffleboard courts to accommodate the changes and site preparation.
Officials say the larger parking garage for the Ash Brokerage project will accommodate future development downtown but is also made possible by 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 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 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 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 Ash Brokerage project 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.
Officials said the financing package uses conservative estimates and is created so that the development pays for itself.