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Electric Works Revived Through New Economic Development Agreement

Rebecca Green/WBOI News

Two months after the termination of an economic development agreement placed the future of Electric Works in jeopardy, all of the parties involved announced a path forward Tuesday afternoon.

In early August, the massive EDA was terminated by Fort Wayne’s redevelopment commission; the body cited funding shortfalls and numerous deadline extensions as the reason for the termination. Since then, both development team RTM Ventures and city officials have sparred in meetings and the press over the fallout, with the threat of a further investigation by City Council without more answers.

Now, things appear harmonious, as Mayor Tom Henry was joined by one of RTM’s lead developers, Kevan Biggs, in his office Tuesday to announce a new, preliminary EDA with two new lead partners: Ash Brokerage CEO Tim Ash, and Cincinnati-based The Model Group, best known locally for developing The Landing.

Biggs ran through a lengthy list of thank-yous for keeping the momentum of the project going, noting that resident input and enthusiasm helped greatly.

“Thank you for your telephone calls, your e-mails, your letters to the editor, the yard signs, the petitions. Your outpouring of support kept us going when our morale was weak, and for that we greatly appreciate it," said Biggs. "We would not be here without you.”

Ash is familiar with major development projects in Fort Wayne; his company’s headquarters opened downtown in 2016 as part of the Ash Skyline Plaza, and he says he was motivated recently to join the Electric Works effort as a general partner.

Ash says he hopes his involvement can lead to three things for the city: momentum, community return on value, and talent retention

“We are at a critical time, so we want the best and the brightest to stay, and to come,” Ash said.

Henry acknowledged that the four years of Electric Works, first as an idea and now as a tangible project, have been difficult. But he says that came from an unwillingness to settle for anything “second-class.”

“Fort Wayne deserves nothing but the best, so we brought together a team -- the team behind me -- who said that we will accept nothing but a first-class development,” Henry said.

The Model Group will join the project in a co-developer capacity.

As of now, the status of businesses who signed letters of intent to occupy space at Electric Works is unchanged, and that includes plans for the headquarters of New Haven-based Do-It-Best Corp.

The new agreement must make its way over several government hurdles, including City Council, whose pending investigation of the initial EDA’s fallout had been delayed until October 13 and will likely be postponed or even thrown out.

Both Henry and Biggs are hopeful the new EDA will be approved and closed on by the end of 2020, which would lead to construction in the spring.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered, and hosted Morning Edition for the past few years. In 2022, he was promoted to Content Director.
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