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Council continues North River discussion, Lutheran Health Network withdraws option to buy

LHN told WFFT IT has evaluated potential sites and their availability in the time frame the network wants, and interest in the North River property has shifted.

Posted: Nov 21, 2017 2:22 PM
Updated: Nov 21, 2017 11:27 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Fort Wayne's city council will continue the discussion to buy the North River property next week.

The decision was made because council members just got estimates on how much remediation would cost for the former scrap yard.

The city estimates it will cost between $500,000 and $600,000 to clean up the property for development.

The city is asking council to buy the 29-acre land across from Science Central for just over $4 million.

City officials said they are interested in buying the land so they can control development there.

The site has been used for a rail yard and a scrap yard for more than 100 years.

The city said most of the contamination is the in the top layer of of the soil, some of which would need to be taken to a landfill.

Under the agreement, the city would let the current owners off the hook for any of the clean up costs associated with the property.

"What would like to do is to be able to negotiate with the sellers to be able to sign their rights under an insurance policy so the tax payers don't have to be the first ones who pay for the clean up, that it's the insurance money that pays first," said councilman Michael Barranda.

"The pressure is on the administration to meet that deadline and get the public back on their side and disclose as much information as possible. tonight was a good start," said councilman Russ Jehl.

"We want to see the property transform and redeveloped into something that benefits the the downtown. Whether that's a commercial facility, entertainment, just to add to the attraction that we're already providing," said Greg Leatherman, Director of Community Development.

The city said it could recoup some costs of the clean up if it is sold to a for profit entity.

However, the Lutheran Health Network told WFFT Local they officially withdrew their option to buy the land from the city Monday because it would take too long to get the site ready.

Instead, they are continuing to look at other areas downtown for a new hospital to replace the current St. Joe Hospital.

The discussion and final vote to buy the North River property will be next Tuesday.

City council starts at 5:30 p.m. inside Citizens Square.

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