I started this as a response to a comment left by John B. Kalb, however, I decided this format would be better used to lay out my thoughts.

Barry Real Estate is scheduled to appear before the City Council on November 18th. I learned this from City Council President Tom Didier, whom I happened to ride the elevator to the 9th floor in City-County Building with.  He was on his way to meet with Jim Irwin and Chris Schoen of BRE; I was on my way to drop off a records request.  This was back on September 17th.  But weeks before this, on August 26th, Councilman Didier had asked at the end of that evening’s City Council meeting for the administration to arrange for an update of the Harrison Square project.  The only news we’ve had about the retail/condominium portion of the project, aka The Harrison, is that in the upcoming October 20th meeting of the Redevelopment Commission, the Commissioners will be presented with alternatives or options for the Concourse level on the North side of Parkview Field where The Harrison should be standing.  This after a question from Tom Obergfell which Greg Leatherman answered.  Leatherman responded, “…we have to have a ballpark that has a concourse, that has that left field wall taken care of and at the next meeting we will have options.”

Last Friday, Ben Lanka wrote about possible changes to The Harrison in the Journal Gazette:

 

[..] It was originally scheduled to have a mix of 62 one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom homes – along with retail shops on the first floor – but Freier said more multi-bedroom units than one-bedroom units are being sold. The developers are looking at redesigning the building to have larger, but fewer, condominiums.

Last month, the developers said 10 condominiums had sold, and Freier had no updated numbers Thursday.

 

I find it very odd that Mr. Freier would not have an updated figure of sold units.  Of course, this leaves it wide open to all sorts of speculation – and none of it good.  One wonders if the worsening economic situation has forced others to drop out of their commitments for the condo units?

[…] Freier said the market is so tough that he would be willing to consider taking a loan if a bank asked that the developer scale back The Harrison. He said if a bank gave the OK on a smaller project, he would discuss the possibility with city officials. While it would be less investment, he said it would allow the developers to get started on construction.

And it’s not going to get any better, not for a while anyway.  The last sentence in that conversation bothers me.  Remember, the TIFF funds that have been pledged to pay for the bonds used to finance this project, are directly derived from the anticipated revenues generated by the project’s worth when completed.  Everything in this project related to financing hinges on another component in the project.  You cannot have one part and not another – it’s one of the major objections the pundits have had with this project.

[…] Freier added The Harrison has preliminary agreements for about 80 percent of its retail space and said he hopes to be able to announce contracts, as he believes that will build more interest for the condominiums.

That’s a bit of good news, but if things aren’t locked down pretty quickly, are those potential retailers going to stick around?

There have been some rumors circulating and purportedly an email sent by Coldwell Banker to prospective buyers of the Condos.  This email states that prices for the condo units have actually increased while the number of single bedroom units decreased.  If you couldn’t sell them at the prices they were listed at, how is increasing the price going to sell them?  And remember, when this project was initially announced with details and firm options at the November groundbreaking, they had no problem securing reservations for all 62 units and then some.  Obviously, something changed and that was the worsening economic situation.  But aren’t you going in the wrong direction by raising prices?  But again, nothing concrete has been said to the taxpayers about the situation.

And that’s really the point here, isn’t it?  The fact is that this conversation should have been held with the taxpayers in this community – the very taxpayers who have quite a bit riding on this project. The consequences to this community of a failed project are far reaching.  The forum for this discussion is the Fort Wayne City Council, not the local newspapers (with all due respect) or even emails.

Now I understand, that budget hearings pretty much wipe out the month of October for the Council and I understand meetings will not be held the first two weeks of November.  But, the initial request was made in the middle of September.  There has been plenty of time to get before the Council to give an update.  Even if it was to say, you know what, we’ve not gotten any further, things are getting worse, whatever.  Just say something.  

The community is supposedly a partner in this project and yet I guess it means we’re supposed to be the “silent partners”.   I think the council we have at this moment, truly are fighting for taxpayers.  They will ask the needed questions.  But to make us wait another six weeks before any official update is given is unacceptable.  I would encourage everyone to contact their elected representatives and let them know what they think on this issue.

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