OmniSource Property Acquisition Off The Table

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According to the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, the City’s proposed acquisition of the former OmniSource property is off the table.  From their website:

Fort Wayne officials no longer are actively pursuing the North River property, which had been considered a potential site for a mixed-use retail and residential development project.

With the city budget being scaled back because of property-tax reform legislation, Community Development Director John Urbahns said he has not talked with the Rifkin family, the owners of the property, for some time.

[…] Former Mayor Graham Richard’s administration secured a one-year option in January 2007 to purchase the 29-acre site for $4.3 million. The city paid $25,000 for the right to purchase the property, but let the option expire at the end June after a six-month extension.

Even though the option expired, Urbahns said during the summer the city still was interested in purchasing the property and that negotiations were continuing.

[…] Dave Nugent, a partner at commercial real-estate firm BND Commercial, said he has not seen any interest in the site lately. At one time, the old freight house, which borders Clinton Street on the southern edge of the property, attracted many potential buyers, he said. The site’s large size could be one hindrance to its sale, Nugent said.

The site initially contained an industrial operation, but Nugent said there is little chance it could be sold for another industrial use. He said there would be practical questions, like whether an industrial project would pass the city planning process. It also is not near a major highway, which is not conducive to shipping and receiving.

Dave MacDonald on his blog, and who gets the credit for bringing this to my attention through his blog (Thanks, Dave!), asks three pertinent questions about what’s next.    The first wonders if the controversial, and I say controversial because of the City’s refusal to release it, environmental study done on the site will be released.  I’d be interested to see what the response is, now that negotiations have ceased.  In fact, I may drop off a request for the document when I’m in the City-County building later this afternoon.

His second question deals with a prospective casino on the property.  I do not think that particular area is well suited for river-front development as it currently sits.  One of the biggest stumbling blocks in that area is the storm water/sewage release structure on the North side of the river bank.  Who’d want to be next to that?  At some point down the road, many years down the road actually, this structure may not have the impact it does now due to CSO alleviation efforts the City has to undertake.  The other thing to consider is Headwaters Park along the south bank of the St. Mary’s River.  Will citizens put up with a casino on the other side of it?  And what would that do to the park’s character?  Add the fact that the South end of the property sits directly in the Rivergreenway which is technically a public park, and I don’t think we’ll see a casino there.

Dave’s third question is what can be done to mitigate the property’s impression it makes on visitors headed into downtown.  It’s been discussed in City Council meetings that this stretch of Clinton, actually, almost all the way back to the bridge over the Spy Run Creek north of Elizabeth Street is due for some major construction work and straightening.  This work is scheduled to be completed in phases over the next three or four years.  Council President Tom Didier has stated that he would like to see all the phases completed simultaneously to minimize the impact on citizens.  Once the project becomes more defined, perhaps at that point, the visual picture can be examined and improved upon.  But, with the economic situation the way it is, even with a quick fix, new projects probably won’t be happening for years afterwards until companies and citizens have recovered sufficiently.

I don’t know if the City walking away from this property is the best thing.  If this were to convince the Rifkin family they needed to lower the asking price, that would be good.  But anyone that comes into that property is probably going to inherit a hefty environmental remediation expense.  If not, the City’s report would have been released at its completion.  Who’s going to be willing to put the financial resources into the property before they can even consider commencing with construction?

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  1. Their previous reason for refusing its release was that negotiations were on-going for acquisition of the property. Looks like that’s ended, so I’m going to make another run at it. I have a feeling the request won’t be approved however. It’s release could jeopardize future sale of the land to potential developers, if it’s indeed tainted to the point expensive environmental remediation is needed. If the same excuse is used, an appeal can be filed with the IPAC. I’ll keep you posted on what I find. I have a feeling I’ll have an initial answer to my request sometime tomorrow.

  2. Stephen,

    I’ll join you on requesting that document if you wish. The fact that the release might harm future sales is not a valid reason for withholding the document as far as I know.


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