GE posts vision for campus

June 27th, 2016

News Coverage:

June 25, 2016

GE posts vision for campus

Put out 27-page document, have met developers

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | Journal Gazette

In the last year or so, Fort Wayne residents have weighed in on what they would like to see happen with the vacant former General Electric manufacturing campus south of downtown.

Now comes a glimpse of what GE might envision.

A document now online shows how GE is marketing the approximately 32-acre property along both sides of Broadway. The company announced it was selling the campus last month, and developers have until July 13 to submit to GE their qualifications to take on projects.

Officials from Greater Fort Wayne Inc. confirmed interest in redeveloping the property already has materialized. Some out-of-town developers visited Thursday to tour the property.

A second day for tours is scheduled for Tuesday, according to the 27-page marketing document, “GE: An Iconic Redevelopment Opportunity.” The document was developed by Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and CBRE, a commercial real estate company with offices in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. is a nonprofit economic development agency created by a merger of the former Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance. 

Remarkably detailed and attractively packaged with photos and graphs, the marketing document is long on selling attributes of Fort Wayne, from proposed and existing downtown developments to GE’s proximity to the airport and cultural attractions.

But the document also provides hints about potential uses GE considers suitable for the campus and its 17 buildings.

Specifically cited as possible uses: “commercial development with retail, office, residential housing, higher education and/or hotel/hospitality.”

The document also shows that GE is willing to divide the property. It cuts the campus into four sections – with differing suggestions for each – and provides a graph rating the condition of various components of individual buildings.

For the 4.3-acre Northwest section bordering West Central neighborhoods, the document recommends new residential development, while the 4.6-acre Southeast campus is “envisioned for mixed uses, including office, retail, restaurant, hospitality, recreational and residential,” including institutional residential use such as off-campus housing.

Neither section has structures now, making them good candidates for “ground-up” development, the document notes.

“Hospitality,” or hotel-like, uses are recommended for the 12-acre West campus and the 13-acre East campus, both described as “major redevelopment” options. The document points out that the West campus’ six-story Building 26, with 46,000 square feet, and the six-story Building 4 on the east side offer “the potential for 360-degree views” of downtown Fort Wayne.

Buildings 20 through 22, 25 and 31 on the West campus could be renovated for “office and retail and restaurant uses” and Building 27, a “unique” one-story structure, “could be repurposed as covered parking” and office space, the document says.

One West side building, 23, the former company recreation center, has “a classic basketball gymnasium,” bowling alley and area for a fitness center, the document notes. No reuse is mentioned.

East side buildings – 6, 7, 8, 8B, 9A, 9B, 9C and 32 – could be renovated for office, retail and restaurant uses or demolished to create open space, circulation or new development, says the document, which also mentions demolition of non-named West campus buildings. 

Despite vacancy, the buildings are in basically good shape, the document reveals. All but three are rated in “B” condition for structural soundness, meaning there are no signs of structural failure or visible weathering or damage and their floors remain usable.

Two structures rate “C” condition, which indicates possible roof leaks or minor cracks, weathering and damage. One, Building 8, is in “B/C” condition, and the roof of Building 19 is in “D” condition, with visible leakage.

The document states environmental concerns are present. It says that, as with similar industrial properties with a 100-year history, “soil and groundwater impacts … must be addressed.”

GE has done environmental testing to evaluate the such impacts and potential risks, if any, and will make that information available to qualified respondents, the document says.

GE “is committed to working cooperatively” with government entities on remediation, and “is seeking respondents (developers) who share the same commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible site redevelopment.”

Descriptions of a list of economic incentives that could be available to a developer are included, as are outlines the area’s residential and office market conditions and a summary of local planning officials’ attitudes about the site.

However, developers are encouraged to provide their own market analyses as well as architectural, environmental and engineering studies in their proposals, which can be up to 100 pages. The bidding process also requires presentations on Aug. 11.

GE says it will select a developer or developers in September.

Democratic Councilman Geoff Paddock, who convened the GE Campus Coalition last year to gather residents’ input on the site, said he sees the document as “a positive sign” that GE is listening to the community and moving forward. The marketing document “is very well put together,” he said.

“It shows positive the atmosphere is in Fort Wayne to development,” Paddock said. “It certainly exceeds my expectations as to what we would be talking about by now when this process started a year ago.”