Downtown project gets bigger, public investment increases

Rain & storms.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)  In anticipation of future downtown growth and development, the parking garage that’s part of the Ash Brokerage and Hanning and Bean Enterprises development will be nearly twice as large as originally planned.  Other factors have also led to a jump in the estimated public investment in the project from $19.5 million to $39 million according to a press release issued by the City of Fort Wayne on Thursday.  The City also announced that development agreements have been signed, meaning the project is moving forward.

Project rendering provided by the City of Fort Wayne.
Project rendering provided by the City of Fort Wayne.

The project, which was first announced in September of 2013, includes a new national corporate headquarters for Ash Brokerage, housing being developed by Hanning & Bean Enterprises, retail space and the parking garage.  The entire project, to be funded both publicly and privately, was initially estimated to cost $71 million, however that figure has grown to $98 million according to City estimates. Fifty-nine million dollars of that will come from private investment.  The rest will come from a combination of tax increment financing (TIF) funds, Legacy Funds and from the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board (CIB).  The City will not be using any property tax funds.

“It’s just unbelievable how things began to unfold,” Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said.  “As it did, even though prices began to go up, we decided we would not be denied this opportunity to make downtown Fort Wayne a real showcase.  So, we stayed with it.  We became real passionate about it, and we worked on it until we got it done.”

The parking garage was originally designed with 750 spaces.  The larger one will have 1,200 spaces.

“Seven hundred and fifty wasn’t enough,” Henry said.  “Now we’re at 1,200, and I hope that’s enough.”

The Hanning & Bean retail project is expected to consist of 80 apartments, 10-14 condominiums and six street-front townhouses.

“Everybody wanted it,” Bill Bean, the vice president of Hanning & Bean Enterprises, told NewsChannel 15.  “That’s why it happened.  If any one of the three parties decided this was too much work, the whole thing would have fallen apart.  There were times I thought, do I really want to do this for the next two years, but at the end of the day, I think it’s worth it.”

The hope is to break ground on the site in the next couple weeks.  Bean said if everything goes as planned, the project could house residents and workers by as early as the end of 2015 or the start of 2016.  “Once we break ground, it’ll be non-stop from that point forward,” he said.

Rendering provided by the City of Fort Wayne.
Rendering provided by the City of Fort Wayne.

Ash Brokerage and Hanning & Bean are co-developing the retail space which already has a commitment from Lake City Bank.

Tim Ash, the CEO at Ash Brokerage, said his company increased its investment in the project by 50 percent.  His firm will expand the business portion of the project from 13 floors to 14.

“As we looked further into the future, five and 10 years from now, as we hopefully grow and expand our employment base in Fort Wayne, we didn’t want to be landlocked,” Ash said.  “Having the additional floor allowed us to think further into the future for that expansion.”

Ash Brokerage has 235 employees in Fort Wayne right now.  All of them will move into the new space once it’s built.  Ash said the company will add another 100 jobs over the next three to five years.

A bank is the only commitment so far, but Ash and Bean said other companies have shown a high interest in signing up next.

“Some of the firms we’ve talked to our in the professional service space,” Ash said, but didn’t want to give specific companies.  “They’re looking to expand their footprint here in the community.  A few of them are talking about adding some very high-paying professional jobs in our community.”

“I’m not sure we’ll be able to get the diversity I envisioned,” said Bean, who was hoping the retails would include shops and a boutique, among others.  “We’ve gotten response from people who want as much as 10,000 square feet.  So if you take that big chunk and the bank’s big chunk that doesn’t leave you a whole lot.  I wish we had more retail commercial because I don’t think that will be an issue filling up.”

The entire development will be bordered by Wayne, Harrison, Berry, and Webster streets.

The next step in the approval process will involve the Redevelopment Commission. Members will be asked to pledge TIF funds for the development at the May 12 meeting. Following that, City officials and developers will make a presentation to council members for the release of $5 million in Legacy Funds. Council could vote for final passage on May 27.  If that happens, site preparation work could begin in June.

Henry said council has been very supportive of the project to this point.  “Every one of them is very enthusiastic.  Several neighborhood associations, the business community, everyone is endorsing it.  There’s a tremendous amount of excitement in the community.  They’re wanting to see it developed.”

If things go as planned, Cindy’s Diner would relocate to the corner of West Berry Street and Maiden Lane in late June.


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