Those who participated in GE focus groups should be ‘optimistic’ by latest announcement

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The GE campus finally has a future, and the people who made it happen are thrilled. Last year several focus groups were held to figure out what residents wanted to see at the site.

In these focus groups, people weren’t asked what they specifically wanted to see– like a grocery store or lofts etc. They were asked what they value most about the site, and what was announced Monday aligns with what they said.

“I think everybody is just thrilled,” resident Charlotte Weybright said.

“I’ve heard from several people and everyone is very very happy,” Councilman (D-5) Geoff Paddock said.

It’s been 24 hours since it was announced the developer Cross Street Partners will buy the GE campus– preserving its history and turning it into a city within a city. That includes retail, office space, living and even an education component.

“I think there’s good reason for people who were involved in this process, who were part of the GE task force to be optimistic about what they hear,” IPFW Professor Andy Downs said.

Downs collected data from several hundred people during focus groups last year about the site. He said what people wanted to see was preservation of the architecture, for the site to become a destination location and for it to be self funding– all were the focus of Monday’s announcement.

“What people didn’t want to do was tie the hands of any developer by saying there has to be one plan,” Downs said.

“In fact I think it probably expands a little bit on what people envisioned,” Weybright said. “We typically think commercial, retail and residential, but my understanding is there might be something along the line of education.”

Weybright has lived in the nearby West Central neighborhood for more than 20 years. For the last two years she’s worked closely with district Councilman Geoff Paddock on the site. The West Central neighborhood has seen a boom lately. Paddock is most excited to see the same thing happen in other surrounding neighborhoods.

“When General Electric thrived these neighborhoods thrived, and we think that can happen again,” Paddock said.