Council members cautiously optimistic about North River deal

The City of Fort Wayne is paying $4.6 million with a loan from the Capital Improvement Board for the land.

Posted: Nov. 29, 2017 10:52 PM
Updated: Nov. 29, 2017 10:52 PM

City officials told WFFT Local News the city will take possession of the North River property Thursday afternoon.

Still, city council members on both sides of the issue said they're cautiously optimistic about their investment.

The City of Fort Wayne is paying $4.6 million with a loan from the Capital Improvement Board for the land that was home to a rail yard and metal recycling plant for more than 100 years.

City council approved buying the property 5 to 3, without seeing the environmental study done on the land because of a confidentiality agreement.

Council president Tom Didier voted to buy the land because he sees the potential.

"There's difficulty, but at the same time I'm an optimist. I'm looking at this from a very, very visionary standpoint," said Didier.

The current owners, Calhoun Investments, would not allow city council members to sign that non-disclosure agreement so they could see the reports before agreeing to buy the land.

Councilman Russ Jehl, who tried to sign that agreement during Tuesday night's meeting, said he would've changed his vote if he could've seen that study.

"As a commercial real estate broker, I could've never advocated for one of my clients to approve a deal like this, to get into something without seeing all the documentation," said Jehl.

The city said environmental clean up is estimated to cost about $250,000.

However, that can vary depending on what goes on the property.

Last week, The Lutheran Health Network withdrew its option to buy the property for a new hospital.

However, officials said there's still interest in the land.

"It's what made me want to move forward with this transaction, was the possibilities. But that doesn't excuse the fact council has a responsibility to the public," said Jehl.

"I can't image that someone would not be willing to build something here," said Didier.

The mayor's office said the city could get the money for environmental remediation from whoever buys the property from the city.

Plus, with increased investment comes increased tax revenue for the city.

City spokesman John Perlich said once the city closes on the property, work will begin to transfer the environmental reports into readable documents for the public to see.

He says they will release those documents in a "timely manner."

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