Mayoral candidate criticizes riverfront negotiations

February 20, 2019

Tim Smith, a Republican candidate for Fort Wayne mayor, said Tuesday the city administration didn’t do its job in negotiating a $61.7 million contract to develop the riverfront property known as the HIVE.

City officials Monday said the developer, Continental Property Group of Wayzata, Minnesota, was unable to meet contractual obligations and they planned to find a new developer.

Smith, an executive at MedPro in Fort Wayne, said he works with contract negotiations. He called the situation another example of failed oversight on the part of the city. 

“Citizens of Fort Wayne should expect more from their elected leaders. Writing enforceable contracts and performing due diligence is not new science -- it’s common sense, and critical to get right when families, neighborhoods, and existing businesses are directly affected,” Smith said in a statement.

He cited as other examples the Red River Waste Solutions garbage contact that failed to define “material breach” and the agreement to buy the North River site for an overpriced $4.6 million and assume liability for environmental clean-up.

 “I’ve seen enough examples now where basic contracting 101 principles were not followed to know that shows a lack of leadership,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.

One of Smith’s Republican primary opponents, City Council President Dr. John Crawford, who had called the HIVE project “a tipping point” for the success of riverfront development, said he was “disappointed” about the situation.

“I was very hopeful it would proceed, and it hasn’t, and these things happen,” he said by telephone Tuesday afternoon. “The primary failure was on the developer’s part, in that they couldn’t come up with the financing, not on the city’s part.”

He said he supported Democratic Mayor Tom Henry’s position on the project. It would have provided residential and retail space as well as a 1,000-vehicle parking garage that could be used in conjunction with riverfront and Headwaters Park events.

John Perlich, spokesman for Henry referred questions to Henry’s campaign spokesman, Adam Henry. He did not return a call seeking the mayor’s reaction Tuesday afternoon.

Four other candidates are running for mayor : Democrats Gina Burgess and Tommy Schrader and Republicans Matthew McLaughlin and David Roach.

Smith said if he were mayor he would place a top priority on the administration’s announced plan of finding a new developer through a Request for Proposals process.

He said he would consider local developers before looking for outside interests and pay special attention in the early stages of negotiation.

“I would put the foot on the gas to find the best developer available,” Smith said.