City council approves North River property purchase

Fort Wayne's city council approved buying the property across from Science Central for $4.6 million during Tuesday's meeting.

Posted: Nov 29, 2017 12:57 AM
Updated: Nov 29, 2017 10:47 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Taxpayers in Fort Wayne will own the North River property by Friday.

Fort Wayne's city council approved buying the property across from Science Central for $4.6 million during Tuesday's meeting.

As part of the agreement, the city is letting the current owners, Calhoun Investments, off the hook for any environment clean up on the property.

Tuesday, the city estimated it would cost $250,000 for clean up, depending on the development that goes there.

City council members agreed the deal to buy this former scrap yard was the toughest vote they've ever had, ultimately approving the purchase in a 5-3 vote.

But overall, people feel this is a good investment for the future of downtown.

"There are a lot of rewards that will come from a development like this," said Stephanie Henry, who lives near the North River property.

Fort Wayne's City Council approved buying the empty 29-acre lot that was a rail yard and a scrap yard for more than 100 years, hoping to re-sell it for development.

"There's a lot of potential. If that was developed, I think that would be a positive boost for the neighborhood and for the community, with the proper kind of development," said Henry.

Just last week, WFFT was the first to tell you the Lutheran Health Network withdrew it's option to buy the property for a new hospital, turning its attention to other locations.

However, deputy mayor Karl Bandemer said there's still interest in the north river property.

"It's on the riverfront. There's a lot of development and attention going toward riverfront development, and this is going to help spur that development," said Bandemer.

However, not everyone agrees.

City Councilman Michael Barranda strongly opposed the agreement and letting the owners off the hook for environment clean up.

"This is how the rich get rich. They own this valuable property, they struck a tough deal with the city," he said.

Barranda was at Tuesday's meeting for the committee session, but he left before the final vote in the regular session.

However, he said the city could've negotiated harder.

"Really it comes down to courage. I think this council had the opportunity to stand up and demand better and we didn't. It would've taken faith to say 'You know what, we can drive a tougher bargain.' and we just backed down," said Barranda.

However, Henry understands the tough decision and thinks the city will become stronger because of council's decision tonight.

"Long term, for the health and growth of our city, if our city doesn't take positions like this to support and encourage the business, then the smaller businesses aren't going to be able to," she said.

The Capital Improvement Board is loaning the city the money needed to buy the land, interest free.

However, City of Fort Wayne spokesman John Perlich told WFFT taxpayers would have to pay environmental remediation, but the city could make the money back once they re-sell the land.

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