FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - City council members approached a Tuesday night council meeting on a mission.
They anticipated drawing out answers about why an economic agreement guiding a path forward for the Electric Works project was suddenly terminated at a public meeting, leaving the project in limbo.
The $280-million Electric Works project would restore empty buildings on the old General Electric campus near downtown and turn them into a vibrant commercial center.
Apartments, shops and offices are in the plans, including the new world headquarters for Do it Best Corporation, the big home improvement chain.
But last month, the city redevelopment commission under Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry voted unanimously to cancel an economic development agreement with RTM Ventures, shutting off tens of millions of dollars in local government funding for Electric Works, raising questions about whether the project can keep going.
Commission members said at the time it was because RTM Ventures
missed another deadline to get its private financing lined up.
RTM officials argued they were close to putting together their fiscal package, much closer than they were given credit for.
City council members felt blindsided and insisted the mayor and redevelopment commission officials come to council to explain why the decision was made to pull the plug on the deal.
And last week, two veteran city council members publicly said if they don't get answers they're looking for, they'll introduce a resolution to compel cooperation from the mayor's office.
At least one council member indicated he is skeptical about what the fiscal body will get out of the planned discussion Tuesday.
"We've been waiting for weeks and transparency seems to not be something that the mayor is interested in. So, there's a very good chance (Tuesday) might be a lot of bluster and a lot of theater, but council will do its best to try to get real answers," said Republican 2nd District councilman Russ Jehl.
"I want to know what's going on. I want to know why the mayor campaigned on supporting Electric Works, attended announcements and supposedly supported it, and then all of a sudden, we've had just like this brick wall we've run into," said Charlotte Weybright, who lives in the West Central neighborhood near Electric Works.
She is a former president of that neighborhood association.
Central to the anxiety about the possible demise of Electric Works is the concern that Do it Best Corporation might move its headquarters to another city if the project can't be rescued.
Council wanted Mayor Henry to appear before the panel to answer questions, but at the time of this report, it was expected that the mayor would not attend.
Fort Wayne Development Director Nancy Townsend said she looked forward to having a positive discussion with council members.