Fort Wayne City Council discussed the possibility of RTM Ventures getting a co-developer to get the city once again to invest public money into the multimillion-dollar project. Screencapture
Fort Wayne City Council discussed the possibility of RTM Ventures getting a co-developer to get the city once again to invest public money into the multimillion-dollar project. Screencapture
Just when the Fort Wayne City Council was about to vote on a bill at its Sept. 22 meeting that would give them investigatory powers over the failed Electric Works project, Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large, asked to hold the bill for three weeks.

Odd, considering Hines co-authored the bill with Tom Didier, R-3rd. But Hines revealed that local business leaders, including auto dealer Tom Kelley and Chuck Surack of Sweetwater Sound, were in discussions with Mayor Tom Henry. If Electric Works developers RTM Ventures can get a co-developer to sign on, the project could move forward.

When asked to comment, Kevin Erb, a spokesman for the Electric Works developers, said in a text message after the meeting, “We don’t have any comment on tonight’s City Council meeting itself, as that pertained to an issue between them and the administration. I can say that the development team is engaged in productive conversations with potential development partners for the project.”

Chuck Surack, owner of Sweetwater Sound, had no comment, according to spokeswoman Heather Herron.

Mayoral spokesman John Perlich responded to a request for comment via email. “We’re focused on finding a path for a successful redevelopment project that protects taxpayers and is viable now and in the future. It’s also vital to keep Do it Best as a corporate partner with good jobs in our community as part of the efforts to redevelop the former GE campus.

“The mayor and members of his leadership team are currently looking at multiple options and talking with business and community leaders to get feedback on possible next steps moving forward.

“We continue to believe the city administration and City Council share the same goal in wanting to see the former GE campus redeveloped.”

The deal for the $280 million public-private partnership fell apart Aug. 3, when the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission failed to grant the developers a sixth extension to get their funding together. The city said RTM still lacked a considerable amount of financial backing. RTM said the funding was in place but at the time not all the documents had been drawn up.

At stake was $62 million in public funding from several sources.

The community was displeased to hear the deal fell through. The redevelopment of the historic former General Electric complex on Broadway was considered to be a boon to the surrounding neighborhoods.

Hardware wholesaler Do it Best, which currently has its corporate headquarters in New Haven, signed on to be the anchor tenant, eventually bringing 500 jobs to the campus. When news of the failed deal became public, Kelley commissioned a study to determine the impact of Do it Best possibly leaving the area altogether. The study indicated the economic impact could be significant — around $100 million annually.

Geoff Paddock, D-5th, whose district includes the Electric Works property, said after the council meeting, “I think we’re making progress.”

He believes the mayor will be more comfortable once RTM can prove they have the equity lined up, have a solid cash flow, and have solid leases in place.

“The good news is that we have some time,” Paddock said. If construction starts Jan. 1, “we’re told by the developers the timeline is still acceptable.”

It could take two years before the facility is ready for Do it Best to move in, Paddock said.
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