City of Fort Wayne to consolidate operations in Renaissance Square

Press release from the City:

“Reaffirming his pledge to build a more competitive community with a more responsive and effective government, Mayor Tom Henry today presented plans for a new city hall at 200 East Berry Street. The location will bring together City of Fort Wayne operations, including the Fort Wayne Police Department, Neighborhood Code, Fire Department administration and all departments currently housed in the City-County Building, except 911 Communications. It also paves the way for greater city and Allen County cost savings and cooperation benefiting all taxpayers and residents.

“With a new city hall, we are charting a new course for Fort Wayne,” said Mayor Henry. “In these difficult economic times, I am doubly committed to getting the most out of every taxpayer dollar and ensuring the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective services to every citizen. This is a decision that will help us do both, now and long into the future. Consolidating operations will save money and increase efficiencies. It will also foster new opportunities for cooperation with our county partner, something I am determined to pursue on behalf of all taxpayers.”

The new facility will resolve the city’s growing space challenges and create a one-stop shop for municipal services. The impetus for the decision arose out of the needs of the Fort Wayne Police Department. Housed in a century-old building located at 1320 East Creighton Avenue, the department has outgrown its obsolete, energy-inefficient headquarters. The department is packed into 38,000 square feet of space, but requires approximately 80,000 square feet of space to function optimally. Studies have shown that renovating and expanding the current site would cost $17.3 million, while constructing a new facility would cost $22 million.

The lease on the police department’s location ends on September 30, 2009, and the lease on the city’s primary premises at One East Main Street is set to expire on December 31, 2010. The convergence of these two events prompted the city to carry out an objective analysis of its overall space and operational needs. Findings detailed a current space use of 138,000 square feet, but nearly 200,000 square feet of floor space is considered essential.

To accommodate those needs, the research examined a broad range of options including remaining in the existing locations, space renovations, new construction, other downtown sites, various big-box buildings throughout the city, and several merger possibilities with the county.

“We explored all the options,” observed Henry. “Our space needs demand action. 200 East Berry Street represents a unique and inclusive solution, a one-of-a-kind opportunity that will allow us to bring together all city departments and make the best use of our resources. The time is right. The price is right. And the long-term benefits for both the city and county are outstanding.”

Formerly called Renaissance Square, 200 East Berry Street has 220,000 square feet of usable space. It has the capacity to fit all city departments in one location while fulfilling the specialized needs of the police department. It represents a long-term solution in a high-quality location.

Situated in the heart of the city in close proximity to other governmental and community-serving offices and on major transportation routes, 200 East Berry Street will be easily accessible to the public. The open-space layout of the four-story, five-level building permits maximum flexibility, promoting efficiency and increased productivity. As an adaptive reuse of an existing facility, the new city hall will realize one of the objectives of the Downtown Blueprints for the Future. Ample, convenient parking for visitors and all employees has been identified as well.

“Some may say that a new city hall marks the end of local government cooperation efforts,”
added Henry. “I say they are dead wrong. This is a community-based decision that will save money and ensure better service delivery for all citizens. There is a myth that all city and county offices are located in the City-County Building today. In fact, governmental building sprawl is the reality. If the county takes advantage of our decision, I think we’ll see a real consolidation of both city and county services to the greater convenience of the public and cost savings for taxpayers. Let me remind everyone, all city residents are also county taxpayers. This is a decision that creates more opportunities for collaboration. It is a platform on which to build for the future.”

The economics of the opportunity make it a highly desirable deal with all financial projections supporting it. The building will be purchased for $7.3 million from Renaissance Square, LLC. Renovations and furnishings will add approximately $7.2 million to the budget for a total cost of $14.5 million. The purchase funds will come from County Economic Development Income Tax dollars. As part of the building transformation, the city anticipates incorporating as many green building options and new technologies as possible. Relocation expenses are budgeted at around $400,000.

This possibility also represents significant cost savings to Fort Wayne taxpayers. At present the city pays nearly $2 million in annual rent and maintenance for the police department, Neighborhood Code offices and its space in the City-County Building. The new city hall will have projected operating costs of slightly over $1 million per year. Coupled with $120,000 yearly to fund additional parking and a $300,000 per annum contribution to a capital improvement fund, the annual expenditure for 200 East Berry Street will be $1.5 million, or nearly $500,000 a year less than the city is currently paying.

Over a 20-year period, the city will see a nearly $8 million reduction in property tax appropriations, pay only debt service and become owners rather than renters. Moreover, the $14.5 million for the comprehensive city hall will be substantially less than the cost projections to solve just the space predicament of the police department alone.

Working with community leaders and the neighborhoods in the city’s southeast quadrant, the McMillen Foundation, owner of 1320 East Creighton Avenue, is exploring alternative uses for the site that would enhance the area. The city has also guaranteed that a positive public safety presence will remain in the neighborhood.

If the purchase of 200 East Berry Street is approved by the Fort Wayne City Council, the renovation will be completed in about a year and a half, and the new city hall will be in full operation by the end of 2010.”

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