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North River property agreement causes concern on city council

The 29-acre property is at the corner of Clinton and Fourth Streets, right across from Science Central.

Posted: Nov 12, 2017 10:49 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2017 8:44 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - The City of Fort Wayne is asking city council to buy the North River property.

The 29-acre property is at the corner of Clinton and Fourth Streets, right across from Science Central.

City's proposed timeline for North River property
  • Nov. 13; Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission to consider becoming the title holder of the North River property
  • Nov. 14; Introduction of ordinance to City Council for the City of Fort Wayne to assume responsibility for any future environmental remediation, if required, at the North River property
  • Nov. 16; Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board (CIB) to consider a $4.63 million funding commitment to the City of Fort Wayne Redevelopment Authority to purchase the North River property. The CIB funding would be interest-free and repaid as future development warrants. No deadline would be required for repayment.
  • Nov. 21; City Council discussion and possible preliminary vote on the ordinance 
  • Nov. 28: City Council possible final passage of the ordinance 
  • Dec. 1; Closing between the City of Fort Wayne and Calhoun Investments, LLC 

The site was once home to a rail yard and an Omni Source scrap yard, but it's been vacant since 2006.

If city council approves the purchase agreement, the city would assume responsibility for any environmental clean up.

City of Fort Wayne spokesman John Perlich told WFFT the city has been interested in the property for about 10 years.

"I think at this point the city administration has a deal they feel happy with, but obviously there are some concerns about buying a property that has known environmental issues," said At-Large city councilman Michael Barranda.

Thursday, the city announced plans to buy the land for $4.63 million.

As part of the agreement, Fort Wayne would buy the property in its current condition and assumes responsibility for any environmental remediation.

Barranda said that shouldn't be the case.

"Anytime you buy a property, and that property has contamination on it, both the purchaser and the seller, are responsible for the remediation. That's why buyers go through their due diligence process to make sure they buy a property that isn't contaminated," he said.

If the sale goes through, this wouldn't be the first time taxpayers paid for environmental cleanup for new land.

Fifth district councilman Geoff Paddock said the city did the same in the 1990s for the land that is now Headwaters Park.

"One was here a filling station was that seeped oil. One was where the National Guard Armory was that we had to clean up spent shell casings that were driven into the ground," said Paddock.

The city plans to buy the property, clean it up, and then sell it for private development.

However, Paddock said the city could continue to tie the property to the rest of downtown across the river.

"There has been talk at some point having a pedestrian bridge go from headwaters park over the river to this site, whatever becomes of it," said Paddock.

There is a lot of interest in the property, including from the Lutheran Health Network for a new downtown hospital.

However, a source told WFFT that they aren't as interested as they once were because of the environmental concerns.

The source told WFFT LHN is still looking at other possible locations in the downtown area.

 

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