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City should support Electric Works project

April 23rd, 2018

News-Sentinel

We stand with the residents of the historic West Central Neighborhood in urging Mayor Tom Henry and Fort Wayne’s City Council to make a concerted effort to support the Electric Works project on the former General Electric campus on Broadway.

News-Sentinel.com columnist Kevin Leininger reported Tuesday on a West Central initiative to urge the mayor and members of the City Council to support the project. Neighborhood president Ben Wahli explained that at least 200 signs have been posted throughout the West Central area expressing residents’ support for Electric Works and urging Henry and City Council to do the same.

While Wahli believes the jobs, taxes and economic activity that would result from Electric Works would benefit the neighborhood surrounding the project area, he also said he believes it would benefit all of Allen County as well.

Electric Works would convert the 39-acre former GE complex into a mixed-use innovation district that also will include high-rise apartments, restaurants and office spaces.

We do agree with Mayor Henry’s comments at a news conference last week, during which he said elected officials have a duty to spend public money wisely. And if more information is needed before the city backs the $220 million first phase of the redevelopment project, as Henry insisted, then the developers should provide it.

But an incredible amount of research and work has already been done to prove the project will become what it is intended to be, and developer RTM Ventures says it has “actively engaged” more than 100 retail and office tenant prospects for the innovation district, including Indiana Tech.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. CEO Eric Doden and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership President and CEO John Sampson are among many vocal proponents of the project.

“Electric Works presents a huge opportunity for Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana,” Sampson told WANE-TV in February. “We are receiving considerable national media interest around Electric Works, and we have seen the positive impact similar projects have had in other communities. Extensive evidence shows the transformational potential a project like Electric Works can have on businesses, talent and neighborhoods, and the rewards for a community are substantial.”

Joshua Parker of RTM Ventures wrote in an April 2 letter to Henry, “Now, more than ever, we need your leadership and guidance to bring this community together and pull this transformational project across the finish line.”

Developers were scheduled to brief County Council on their plans this week, and we trust they will follow through in answering the mayor’s and City Council’s concerns as well.

Then, we hope, the remaining necessary funding can be allocated and the project can go forward.