Opinion: J-G’s questions on Renaissance Square move

The Journal Gazette has an editorial about the City’s announced plans to move to the Renaissance Square building.

One of their questions:

Q. How will city leaders ensure cooperation with the county and make sure consolidation of some departments moves forward?
Separate city and county 911 dispatch departments should consolidate. The city and county have made little progress while occupying the same building. How does moving out of shared headquarters help those efforts?

Good question, bad example. Many of those responsible for 9-1-1 consolidation don’t currently co-exist in the same building, so to say a move would impact this issue is not entirely true. Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York and command staff as well as Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries are in separate buildings now – have been and will be. The uncombined 9-1-1 dispatch center with the now infamous glass wall, will remain in the City County Building. At times over the years, those making the decisions, the City Administration and Allen County Commissioner’s could have been in different buildings, heck, different states and it would have had little bearing on the issue.

The example (or question from an example) that should have been used is the consolidation of the City and County’s Plan Department and Commission. While far from perfect, the consolidation does seem to be working. Could this have happened with both entities in separate buildings? Probably, although the logistics may have been a bit more involved and meetings might have meant some (5 minutes?) travel time.

Q. Will there be enough parking, and how much will it cost?
[…] It’s uncertain whether citizens will defray that cost by paying for parking when they visit City Hall. […]

Ah, yes. The inevitable argument that if I cannot park within 10 feet of the entrance, there’s not enough parking. I think actually, the issue is a bit confused here as there are two parking issues. Parking for the City’s needs and parking for visitors. Only the City knows for sure about the former. In the case of the latter, there is plenty of on-street parking that is currently under-utilized, especially on Wayne street and in the parking garage. As for paying for parking, don’t we already do that?

Q. If the city has fewer employees than in 1971, when it moved in with the county, why does city government need more room?
In 1974 there were 1,970 employees; now there are 1,850. The police and fire departments have grown as the city has grown.

But computers and other efficiencies have allowed fewer civil and utilities employees to serve an increased number of residents. In 1970 the population of Fort Wayne was 185,200. The population has increased 35 percent to 250,086.

Ok, perhaps I’ve not had enough caffeine, or haven’t woke up enough, but what? The number of city employees has dropped, population increased by 35 percent and you ask why city government needs more room?

What do the employee numbers cited actually consist of? Are these employees that were/are strictly housed in the City-County Building? Are you including all public safety departments and other departments not currently in the City-County Building in these numbers? It would seem that if you are looking at the specific issue of why the city government needs more room, you’d compare apples and apples, not apples and oranges. (Personally, I prefer oranges, unless they’re some of those Granny Smith Apples, then you’ve got me!)

This question also takes a broad approach asking why does city government need more room. This ignores the fact that you are moving the police back into the same building as the “rest” of the city. Is this creation, or simple consolidation of space that is spread out?

Q. At a time when the city should be looking for ways to make cuts, why does it need extra space?
Roller said Renaissance Square has 220,000 square feet of usable office space, of which the city plans to use 200,000.

See above. The questions this Q&A begs is does the City have something planned for the 20,000 square feet not needed? That’s the question that should have been asked.

[…] He [Mayor Henry] also needs to take the important, but so far neglected, step to seek the public’s opinion on the city moving out of the nearly 40-year-old jointly occupied City-County Building.

According to City Council President Tom Smith, the public will have an opportunity to give their opinion on the plan during the City Council’s July 7th meeting.

A poll on this blog, shows that it’s a dead heat between a Yes or No vote on the purchase.  As of 8:45 this morning, there were 52 No votes and 51 Yes votes when asked, “Should the City purchase Renaissance Square?”

The biggest question which did not make it into this editorial is about the asking price.  Is the building worth the$7 million being asked?  That’s the questions most citizens/taxpayers demand an answer to.  That’s the real case the Administration must make before the deal can be considered done.

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  1. That’s my only question. The building is worth 1.1 million and yet the City purchased it for $7 million??? I guess the City is so much better off than everyone else in these hard economic times.

  2. Thanks, Stephen! Many of the numbers that you cited are just the ones I was about to research. What I wonder about most is how much more TOTAL space does the city use now than in 1971? I’m almost positive that the city occupies all of the area between Hanna and Barr south of the railroad tracks. Will the move make any of that space available to generate revenue for the city? (The fire department administration and maintenance, for example.) To compare apples to apples (I prefer Red Delicious,) where might I find the city’s operating cost per square foot for ALL of the real estate, and the details regarding total cost savings by making the move.

    • No problem, Paul. This move is only, at least to what’s been said publicly, for those departments, staff inside the City-County building. To the best of my knowledge, this is a move, not consolidation of services that are located elsewhere. The area you’re speaking of, Hanna and Barr, wouldn’t be up for consideration in this move because those are shops and such. I don’t think there’s been any discussion of moving the fire department admin into Renaissance Square. Not sure how that would work anyway as they have their shops there as well. I have a feeling that City Controller Pat Roller would be the one to answer your question, although an inquiry to the PIO would probably ensure better results.

  3. Justin: The $1.1 million value was just for the parking lot – and it is not being sold under this proposal – it will remain as a leased lot to the city by the Huber Trust at $4,950 per month, paid in advance each year.
    The assessed taxable value is over $7 million just for the building and the land under it.


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