Thursday, February 15, 2007

Northwest Area Partnership Meeting

I went to the Northwest Area Partnership Meeting tonight. The Mayor was the guest speaker.

The Northwest Area Partnership is an organization of Homeowners Associations in the Northwest quadrant of Fort Wayne.

There were 50 people present. Between 15 and 20 were members of the media or City employees of various sorts... I sat with fellow blogger Jeff Pruitt at the meeting.

The Mayor gave a presentation about what he has accomplished as Mayor and discussed Harrison Square. Here are some of the things that he said that caught my attention:

1. He said that Fort Wayne will get 14 million in grants for green ways while spending only two million. That is impressive.

2. Fort Wayne is installing 6 new miles of water lines per year.

3. Fort Wayne is paving 50 miles of road per year. He also mentioned that once you include the newly annexed areas Fort Wayne now has 1200 miles of roads.

4. He said that wages in Fort Wayne were 83% of the national wage.

5. He said the clean air and clean water were very important for a City and that future Cities will be judged on these issues.

6. He said that fixing the CSO problem would cost 350 - 450 million dollars. (This is less then the 600 million I have heard)

7. He said that the owners of the Wizards think we need a new baseball stadium in order to grow their fan base as much as they plan. He also said that the new Baseball Stadium would be a "Townsquare Meeting Place."

The Mayor gave a good presentation and is a good speaker. He came across as being smart and well informed...

After his presentation he took questions from 8 or 9 of the people present. All of the people except one was against the Harrison Square Project... Realize these people are often the President of their local Neighborhood Association...

Jeff Pruitt asked some questions and I expect he will make a blog entry about it.

I also asked some questions.

1. I asked if The Mayor would arrange for me to meet with his staff so that I could create financial statements for the project. He took my business card and told me he would make sure that I get the information I need. I am looking forward to it.

2. I asked The Mayor why the hotel had started at 360 rooms, then the RFP was for 300 rooms, and the current bid is for 250 rooms. He said that he did not know how many rooms the hotel would have. That has not been determined yet. The brochure passed out at the meeting stated 300 rooms.

3. I asked the Mayor about the Parking Garage and its financing; he said the financing for this had not been decided yet...

The Mayor basically said that they do not have an actual financing plan in place yet and that the details are being worked out. He did however say that he hoped to have it to the City Council by late March or early April...

I said that I was surprised that he wanted to get this in front of The City Council considering how many things were still up in the air...

I am glad I attended the meeting, it was very informative...

Mike Sylvester

18 comments:

Jeff Pruitt said...

Mike,

I would agree that the meeting was very informative but not necessarily towards Harrison Square. Most of the details still don't seem to be worked out so there wasn't any new information.

I did have a good exchange w/ the Mayor regarding my FOIA request and was happy to hear that they will be providing all the requested information soon...

Karen Goldner said...

It was good to see you and Jeff last night, Mike. So much of what the Mayor talked about (and I don't mean Harrison Square) are not well covered in the media. I'm glad the Mayor makes this opportunity every year to take his report directly to the neighborhoods and hope that the next mayor continues this tradition.

bud said...

Karen,

Do you know why the current Request for Proposal for a downtown hotel was/is not posted on the Redevelopment commission portion of the City website, like prior RFPs for that project were/are? Did you know the current RFP was for minimum of 250 rooms even though all the City press releases were claiming a minimum of 300 rooms?

Your thoughts will be most appreciated.

Karen Goldner said...

Bud,

I'm not sure why you think I would know this. I haven't written, edited, or had anything to do with news releases for the City since November, 2003.

Your first question would best be directed to Greg Leatherman at the City. However, I BELIEVE that the reason is because they City did a Request for Qualifications for developers, and then invited qualified developers ("qualified" based on their response to the RFQ)to submit proposals. I do not know whether the original RFQ was posted. In situations like this where the proposal itself will be very complex (and expensive), it is not uncommon to use this sort of RFQ process.

There are a lot of very important details that need to be worked out to make sure that property taxpayers aren't going to end up on the hook for anything. The hotel is one of the most important detail because that sets up a lot of the financing for the rest of the project. So we need to stay tuned and pay attention.

bud said...

Karen,

I posed the question to you because the City's website lists you as a member and secretary of the 5 member Redevelopment Commission. I thought you might have some awareness of the proces, and what is and is not made available by the Commission to the public.

I did not mean to imply that you misrepresented the scope of the RFP for the hotel. It apears that it has been consistently misrepresented by City officials, on City websites and in City press releases. As you are on the Commission that issued the RFP and you are, I think, a pretty close follower of city economic development issues, I thought you might be aware of the discrepancy and have some explanation for it. Perhaps you have not been following the City announcements on Harrison Square. I should not have assumed that you have been doing so.

Karen Goldner said...

The Redevelopment Commission is a city board of 5 people who are volunteers. I am one of those 5 people. We review and act on various business of the Commission at our monthly meetings, but City staff are the people who do the actual work. The position of board secretary (which I held in 2006) is not the same as the actual secretary who does the work. That person is an employee of the City of Fort Wayne.

As a member of the Commission I was something of a thorn in their side because I have been very skeptical of the Harrison Square project and asked A LOT of questions. I am a strong proponent of downtown development because I view it as terribly important for our overall community's economic development. However, I have questioned the baseball stadium from the beginning.

Because of the large amount of private investment, and because it gets us what we as a community have said we want (retail and residential), I think we need to seriously consider the Harrison Square proposal. To me, it really isn't about the ballpark. Obviously we need to make sure the deal is structured in a way that protects our taxpayers.

Some parts of this plan are within the purview of the Redevelopment Commission, and as a member you can be sure I'll continue to ask tough questions and make sure the community's interests are protected. The Commission meetings are open to the public (typically the 3rd Monday of each month, although the 2/19 meeting is cancelled - I do not know whether it will be rescheduled. Check the City's website or call the City at 427-1140.) The last time I remember a member of the public came to a meeting however, she was actually in the wrong place! Our meetings are pretty boring, I will admit, but they are about important projects so I encourage people to attend.

Hope that answers your question, Bud.

Anonymous said...

Karen,

You said that this project is has a large amount of private investment. Can you explain that?

This is what the public sees:
Public monies have or will go into land acquisition and infrastructure development as well as finance the parking garage and 85% of the stadium.

Taxpayers aren't seeing what we consider a large private investment in the project.

Karen Goldner said...

It's about $60 million in private investment, into retail, residential, and part of the baseball stadium. Check out http://www.cityoffortwayne.org/images/stories/news/harrison/fact_sheet.pdf on the City's website. And no, I cannot explain why the City's website continues to say the hotel has at least 300 rooms. If the market (i.e. hotel developer) says that there is room for 250 rooms, I'm fine with that number. (Some of this discrepancy may have to do with the fact that the Holiday Inn was temporarily thought to be out of the hotel market earlier this winter and now it appears that it is remaining a hotel).

It seems to me that $60 million is a large amount of money. It is certainly a LOT larger than any other private investment in downtown. As I mentioned before, that is the reason I think this is a project that we need to carefully consider.

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

Just curious about this - when people say they oppose the Harrison Square project, does anyone ask in what part of the City they live?

It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between negative feedback and the residency of those who oppose the project.

There may not be any connection, but I would be willing to guess that many of those who oppose the project are not from the core of the City. Or it could be that the oppostion is from a diversity of areas with no one area outstanding.

Andrew Kaduk said...

Charlotte:

NOBODY is from the "core" of the city. Nobody lives down there. If you start at 1S2, you have to drive about half a mile in any direction to even find a large enough chunk of residences to even call it a "neighborhood." That's why the Kelty plan needs to get some serious attention from people. In order to create a strong residential community downtown (you know, one that will drive the economy and bolster the market in that particular geographical area), people will want/need amenities. People in Fort Wayne do not want/need baseball as it is, even less-so if it's harder to get to and worse to park.

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

Andrew:

Thannks for pointing out my incorrect use of the word "core." I should have been clearer about the area to which I was referring.

I am referring to the older neighborhoods such as West Central, East Central, Williams-Woodland, Nebraska, Bloomingdale, North Highlands, etc. which are in closer proximity to the downtown.

I realize the true core of the City has primarily business and retail establishments with little residential capacity.

I am just curious as to where people live who object to the project. I wonder if support for the project decreases as residents become farther removed from the older neighborhoods and the downtown.

Dan Turkette said...

Charlotte,

I know how you central west enders' think; you're part of an exclusive club and look down your snouts at the rest of us. We're residents too.

It does not matter where the people live. If they're city of Fort Wayne residents that's all that matters and 71% of do not want this project.

-------------------------

Karen,

Why on earth we would the city consider creating another retail center when we have over 600,000 square foot under or about to be under contruction in SW Fort Wayne now, AND another 180,000 that sits empty? These figures do not even include Jefferson Point.

Haven't you peple heard about supply and demand? There's a glut of supply and little demand.

As for Hardball Capital wanting a larger facility.. This is their first foray into owning *any type* of sports franchise so they have zero in the way of experience.

Before I'd bet a nickel, I'd like to see their five-year business plan and I doubt that will happen anytime soon if at all.

Andrew Kaduk said...

Charlotte:

Ok, let's say that those neighborhoods do, in fact, represent the "core" of Fort Wayne. Let's do a survey of them and see how many would be willing to buy season Wizards tix. Let's also survey them on how many of them have ever been to one, single, solitary Wizards game.

Of course the people who live closer would love to have a bunch of money dumped from the sky near their neighborhood(s)....who wouldn't? But the fact remains, you must then come up with people to drive down there and spend some more. The Komets don't have any trouble selling tickets based on their location...why should it be any different for the Wizards? The truth of the matter is, everyone would like to see the private money invested and see something succeed. Unfortunately, the Wizards have thus far not been a resounding success, and neither has conducting high-dollar downtown retail business. So if I'm reading this properly, someone is using the old algebraic rule that two negatives make a positive? I'm sorry, but in the business world, combining two loser ideas typically isn't the recipe for a "winner."

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

Good Lord Dan:

Get off your defensive perch. It has nothing to do with "looking down our snouts". It has to do with improving the entire area.

And, I didn't say everyone else wasn't a resident - I simply asked a question about where those who oppose the project live and the relationship of their residency to downtown.

I would assume that most residents would want to see something beneficial come to their area. However, I realize the definition of "beneficial" is open to debate.

Why choose a location for any project? It all involves positives and negatives.

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

Andrew:

Again, all I asked was a simple question in relation to where the residents who oppose the project live and how they feel about the project.

I didn't say make any business decisions based on my question.

Also, I do remember the days when high-dollar retail business was conducted downtown before the businesses started moving to the outer edges of the City.

Anyone who came to Fort Wayne in the '50s and '60s had a great selection of retail businesses downtown.

We used to drive over from South Whitley to go to the large retail department stores, variety stores, etc.

And before the next comment is that I am living in the past, let me say I realize that type of business will not come back to downtown on any large scale - but it is possible to draw in smaller retail businesses.

Robert Enders said...

Charlotte,

I live on Reed St, half a block north of Rudisell and within walking distance of South Side High School.

I am opposed the Harrison Square project. I don't care if the proposed site is next door to me, across the street, or on the other side of the Earth, it is both wrong and stupid to use taxpayer dollars to build a hotel.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Robert,

Don't forget that the hotel will only exist in that location because the city eminent domained the current property. They will now give that private property to another private entity.

LP Mike Sylvester said...

Charlotte:

I think that you are 100% correct.

I think that many of the people who support the project live or work near the project.

I think that many of the people who live near the "edges" of the City oppose the project.

I live on the very northern "edge" of the City. I honestly can only name one person I know up here who thinks Harrison Square is a good idea...

This much I do know for certain, a strong majority of residents OPPOSE the project.

Mike Sylvester