Developer buys GE campus with $300M plan

$300M mixed-use development planned

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The iconic and sprawling General Electric campus on downtown Fort Wayne’s southwest corner will be sold and redeveloped.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. announced Monday that Baltimore-based Cross Street Partners has been selected to buy and redevelop GE’s Broadway campus. The estimated $300 million project will transform the vacant and devitalized 31-acre campus into a “mixed-use, place-based innovation district” that will include commercial, retail and market, residential, hotel and community space, along with a tract for a university, Greater Fort Wayne officials said.

“We’re really thinking about a campus that is open out into the community, a place that’s welcoming to all types of folks and connects into the downtown and connects into the surrounding areas,” said Josh Parker, partner and principal of Cross Street. “Part of our process (will be) to really engage with the community and think about what’s already happening. We can come to town with all the great ideas in the world, but if we don’t knit that into the local fabric, it’s ultimately not going to be successful. So we’ll be talking with the community about what this site means to them, what it means to the sense of place in Fort Wayne, and then figuring out ways that we can honor that on this site and finding uses that integrate well into the community.”

Rendering of a redeveloped GE campus
Rendering of a redeveloped GE campus

GE announced last May that it would offer for sale and potential reuse and redevelopment the sprawling dozen-building campus off Broadway where it produced a wide range of products including electric motors and superchargers since 1911. For decades, GE was the city’s largest employer. The company, though, announced in January 2014 plans shut down operations in Fort Wayne, and the site became dilapidated and largely an eye sore.

For more than a year, a task force made up of concerned citizens and community leaders met to brainstorm ways to recover the campus, to reuse the buildings instead of tearing them down.

Now, that vision is on track to become a reality.

Parker said the redevelopment will touch every building on the campus. His team plans to renovate and preserve all buildings they functionally can, and a due-process early study of the campus has shown only minor demolition of small pockets is expected.

Which tenants will be eyed for the development, Parker said it’s too soon to tell. Cross Point officials will meet with the community in public hearings to learn what the residents want to see.

Geoff Paddock, a 5th District City Councilman who led that task force, told NewsChannel 15 the project would be a “major benefit.”

“Such a renovation of this campus would be a huge investment in the heart of the Fifth District,” said Paddock. “It would be a major benefit to the work being done on the Broadway Corridor and a major benefit to the neighborhoods that surround the current vacant campus.”

Funding for the project includes private equity, bank loans, New Market tax credits, federal tax credits and government incentives, according to Greater Fort Wayne. So far, about $41 million in equity has been secured, and the developers will apply for $70 million in federal tax credits. The city of Fort Wayne has also agreed to seek a new TIF

Governor Eric Holcomb was in town for the announcement. He described it as a magnet and a transformational project.

“This will raise eyebrows all over the country not just around the state but folks will be looking at where do we want to grow our operation? Fort Wayne is providing certainty, predictability, and vibrancy and that’s a pretty powerful 1,2,3 punch,” he said

Greater Fort Wayne said after a final agreement is reached, Cross Street will work to get input from the community, secure commitments from institutional and commercial tenants, obtain funding and complete construction drawings. Eric Doden says as they move forward, community input for what’s next remains most important. “This is a day that we’ve been working hard for three years to come to and now this is a beginning of a process.”

Construction could begin in the fall and be completed in 3-4 years, officials said. The project is modeled in part after the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham, North Carolina.

Eric Doden, CEO of Greater Fort Wayne, called the project the “most transformational” he’s ever worked on.

“We are encouraged by this important step in the process toward the redevelopment of the GE campus, said Doden. “This project will transform the Broadway neighborhood, neighborhoods south and southeast of downtown, our community and our region for years to come.

“We believe this is a strong proposal with the potential to be a nationally recognized project as we work to build a nationally recognized economy.”