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The Landing project at risk of losing funding

The City of Fort Wayne is asking for more taxpayer dollars to help continue The Landing project in downtown Fort Wayne, which could mean the developers would have to give back more money than what the City is currently asking for.

Posted: Oct. 9, 2018 12:29 PM
Updated: Oct. 10, 2018 6:34 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind (FOX 55) - Fort Wayne is asking for more taxpayer dollars to help continue The Landing project in downtown Fort Wayne.

City council will address the funding tonight which would give the developers $1.4 million to be used for streetscaping along the landing.

The problem? Councilmen Russ Jehl, R-2nd and Paul Ensley, R - 1st, claim the developers, Model Group, listed the streetscape as part of the project and not City's responsibility, so the City wouldn’t have to foot the bill. But neither the City nor the developer disclosed how the money they asked for from the Regional Development Commission would be used.

Nancy Townsend, the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission Director, says otherwise.
In a statement, Townsend said "The West Columbia streetscape was never part of the Legacy loan requested by the Model Group because it is not part of the developer’s project. The scope of work outlined in the loan request was for the revitalization of seven historic buildings and the construction of one new building."

The councilmen spoke against the new funding today stating the city and developers knew this could be an issue and are setting a dangerous precedent if this passes.

Councilman Ensley said “I think the policy issue is we don’t get a full picture of what’s being asked for and so we just approve things one at a time and there’s kind of a slippery slope where now we’ve already approved most of the funding, so now we need to just do a little bit more for the project to go on and I think that’s very poor policy.”

This biggest issue is that last year city council approved a $2.5 million Legacy Fund loan with the stipulation that they would have to forfeit the $2.5 million if they came back asking for more. Council wanted to see the project move forward, but wanted to protect the taxpayers, which is why they put in the stipulation.

“The only thing that council said is don’t come back, don’t soak the public a second time for more funds. This is a very generous project. It’s already over 70% funded by the public. The developer basically was able to take all of their money out of the project at closing and a developers fee. So, it’s ok to find a conventional route either through TIF or let the developer foot the bill for its improvements,” said Jehl.

But Townsend believes this is the right move because "It is historically City government’s and the Redevelopment Commission’s responsibility to complete streetscape projects; sidewalks, roads, street trees are all public property and as such the infrastructure is designed and installed by City government. The work is completed in conjunction with private projects in order to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

Councilman Ensley says that if the City of Fort Wayne get their way, area neighborhoods may need to wait to see road and sidewalk improvements themselves.
“We have made our neighborhoods wait for years, in some cases multiple years to have their streets repaired. I don’t think anyone would mind if a 30 million dollar development that was already 70% publicly funded had to wait a little bit longer to get their streets done,” Councilman Ensley said.

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