A Maryland developer is purchasing the General Electric campus on Broadway Street in Fort Wayne — all 31 acres — and hopes to begin construction on a more than $284 million revamp at the site as early as this fall.
“I think this is the greatest thing that could happen to Fort Wayne,” said Darrell Kindschy, who has lived within walking distance to the campus since 1974. “It will help the neighborhood. … Everyone is talking about it.”
The announcement of the purchase and plans on Feb. 13 was indeed what everyone seemed to be talking about that day.
“This is a big win for the Broadway neighborhood and the south side of Fort Wayne,” said Eric Doden, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. CEO, during a press briefing Feb. 10.
State, regional, county and local officials, as well as residents and nearby business owners gathered in the gymnasium of the GE Club on the site to hear the official word that redevelopment would take place.
“Everyone knew, myself included, that there was some potential here,” said Tom Smith, a former Fort Wayne councilman who has worked with Councilman Geoff Paddock and a coalition of residents to seek a new future for the property.
Gov. Eric Holcomb was present to celebrate the announcement and plans for the GE campus. He called the project “pivotal” for Fort Wayne and all of northeast Indiana. The iconic GE sign that stood atop one of the buildings for years was a symbol of prosperity, he said. Now, the new vision being built will once again bring prosperity to the community.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry emphasized a project of this magnitude will benefit the entire northeast section of Indiana.
“We have to enhance the core of our city — the downtown section of Fort Wayne — if we truly are going to remain the type of leader that we want to be,” Henry said.
He added that the development plan complements other investments underway in the city that help it become a destination.
Cross Street Partners, based in Baltimore, plans to redevelop 1.1 million square feet to create a place to live, work, play and learn, Doden said. The company’s chief investment officer, Josh Parker, first saw the old manufacturing facility in December 2015, when he came to visit Fort Wayne on the advice of a mutual contact he and Doden share.
“I saw the GE campus and I was in love,” Parker said.
Cross Street has developed historic properties like the GE campus across the nation. It has a focus on urban revitalization. A brief look at the company’s website — crossstpartners.com — shows several ongoing and recently completed projects. Many of the projects the developer takes on are similar to the GE campus — the main building(s) are manufacturing relics that have sat vacant for years. As such, the company is prepared for the remediation that is likely required on the campus after years of industrial work.
Parker spoke to the energy and enthusiasm he felt from the community’s leadership. He also noted that he believes Fort Wayne’s future is bright.
“I think we are arriving right before the tipping point,” he said.
In a couple of weeks, the final documents will be signed and a sale price will be available. In the meantime, Cross Street is coordinating with a number of local agencies and government bodies to line up financing and begin planning the next steps so the company can break ground this year.
The preliminary breakdown for the campus is planned as follows:
• 277,000 square feet for education space;
• 137,000 square feet for retail;
• 131,000 square feet for office space;
• 342,000 square feet for residential;
• 120,000 square feet for hospitality; and
• 64,000 square feet for amenities.
Funding for the project is expected to include about $70 million in federal tax credits, a $92 million loan, $41 million in equity and additional incentives from state and local government entities, Doden said. Also, the city of Fort Wayne has agreed to seek a new tax increment financing district that will apply to this area, a Greater Fort Wayne Inc. statement said.
Once a final agreement is reached, Cross Street is expected to seek input from the community, secure commitments from future tenants, obtain financing and incentives and complete construction drawings. Construction could begin in the fall of 2017 and be completed in three to four years.
“There is much work to be done; we will need your help,” Parker told the audience.
Reaching this point in the redevelopment of the GE campus took a collaborative effort between the community, Greater Fort Wayne and local, state and federal officials, Doden said.
“This is the most transformational project I’ve worked on in my career,” Doden said.
Doden said Greater Fort Wayne reached out to GE about the property in March 2014. In May 2015, a neighborhood coalition formed to consider options for the campus. The group submitted a presentation to GE in November 2015. A community focus group was led in February 2016, followed by GE issuing a request for proposals in May 2016.
Developers from across the nation submitted proposals by July and GE narrowed down the selection in the fall. Cross Street and GE began formalizing an agreement early this year, Doden said.
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, worked with GE and Norfolk Southern so that the entire 31 acres could be included in the purchase. A section of the campus is owned by Norfolk Southern and leased to GE.
Despite all the work that has occurred up to this point, the announcement “is not a ribbon cutting” and “it is not a ground breaking,” Doden emphasized. Once due diligence has taken place and agreements are signed, the developer can begin making more concrete plans.
Cross Street established a website for the project where anyone can sign up to be added to an email list to receive updates. The website is: fortwayneelectricworks.com.