Fort Wayne officials tour model for GE redevelopment

DURHAM, N.C. (WANE) A contingent of officials traveled to Durham, North Carolina, on Thursday to tour the American Tobacco campus, which will serve as a model for the $300 million redevelopment of Fort Wayne’s General Electric campus.

A contingent of 40 officials traveled to Durham, North Carolina, on Thursday, May 18, 2017, to tour the American Tobacco campus, which will serve as a model for the $300 million redevelopment of Fort Wayne’s General Electric campus. (Ellen Cutter/Greater Fort Wayne Inc.)

In February, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. announced Monday that Baltimore-based Cross Street Partners was selected to buy and redevelop GE’s Broadway campus. The multi-year 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.

Much like the American Tobacco campus.

The sprawling campus, once home to the American Tobacco Company, features dozens of eateries, businesses and educational spaces, as well as a theater and man-made river and rushing waterfalls, all wrapped around the ballpark of the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team. The true live-work-play area is one of downtown Durham’s hottest destinations.

The development of the American Tobacco Campus brought new life to downtown Durham, according to Ellen Cutter of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. During the tour, she learned there was once 500 people living downtown. Now there are 16,000. Developers hope to see the same success come to Fort Wayne’s GE campus.

American Tobacco Company closed in 1987 and sat vacant for 20 years as the building slowly deteriorated.

“Just imagine an old tobacco factory that had trees growing through it,” said Anthony Ridley, President of the Southeast Area Partnership. “They took bold new initiatives, made decisions that weren’t popular with everybody in the public, and followed through with them. Now they’re having a total success.”

The GE Campus and American Tobacco Campus are similar in size and the history of the two are parallel. That is why it serves as a model for the redevelopment of GE. In 2004, a developer invested $200 million into the project, bringing a rundown tobacco factory back to life. After seeing the potential for the campus first hand, city leaders say they have work to do.

“We’ll work to inspire our neighborhoods our community that we can definitely do this kind of project,” said Ridley.