This is Raw Footage, unedited and despite months of public discourse and discussion on the Harrison Square project, the support of the Fort Wayne City Council remained.
The council voted 6-3 Tuesday to approve a $50 million bond to finance the $120 million public-private development, which includes a Courtyard by Marriott hotel with parking garage, condominiums, retail shops and a city-owned $30 million baseball stadium. No council member changed his stance from a 6-3 vote taken on the project in April before many details were revealed.
The council vote was one of the final financing hurdles for the city, but it has several more steps to complete for construction to begin this fall. The city plans to meet with multiple groups this week regarding a $900,000 walkway connecting the Courtyard to Grand Wayne Center through the Embassy Theatre building. The council also must vote to rezone the property and to close streets needed for the development.
Greg Leatherman, deputy director of development for the city, said demolition of existing buildings on the site could begin as soon as this week.
Slightly less than half of the entire development, to be located southwest of the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Harrison Street, is being financed by private developers.
After the vote, Councilman Tim Pape, D-5th, asked the opponents to do everything they could to make the project a success now that is has been approved.
The council discussed several deals between the city and private developers, although the council did not officially vote on them. One of the biggest points of contention was that the city did not provide corporate financial statements for Hardball Capital and Barry Real Estate to examine. Hardball owns the Fort Wayne Wizards and is contributing $5 million toward the construction of the stadium and, Barry is constructing the retail and condominiums.
Councilman Don Schmidt, R-2nd, said that information should have been given to the council so it could determine whether its newest business partner had the means to follow through on its promises.
“If you were going into business with someone, you would do that,” he said.
Steve Brody, a consultant for the city, said he and Controller Pat Roller personally reviewed the financial data for the privately held companies and were more than comfortable with their ability to be part of the project.
“There’s absolutely no question about their ability to finance,” he said.
Schmidt said the city should also have given that data to the council for its review.
Pape, however, said the council has never had a policy of requesting that information. He said that had Schmidt wanted to create such a policy, he’s had decades on the council to do so. Pape also questioned why Schmidt wanted information from some developers, but not others. He said the votes from the council would determine whether the city acted appropriately.
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