Getting IU commitment vital to Electric Works project’s success
By Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette
Indiana University is committed to taking up residence in Electric Works, according to IU's board chairman.
Dr. Michael Mirro, who also serves on IU Health's board of directors, told The Journal Gazette that Bloomington-based IU officials will travel to Fort Wayne at the end of November to work through details with developers of the proposed $248 million project that would transform the former General Electric campus.
Among those scheduled to make the trip, Mirro said, are Bill Stephen, IU's vice president for engagement, and Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp.
Michael McRobbie, IU's president, and Jay Hess, dean of IU's medical school, have already toured the campus and thrown considerable influence behind the plan, Mirro said.
Until that meeting this month, it's unclear what IU's presence would look like. The university might sign its own lease, occupy some of Parkview Health's footprint within Electric Works, or take up enough Parkview-designated space that Parkview is forced to expand its presence.
“I think all those things are possible,” Mirro said last week.
Mirro, who is also Parkview's senior vice president and chief academic research officer, said IU's commitment is solid even if details aren't.
“They are definitely going to be involved in the work Parkview is doing with bio-medical research,” he added.
Parkview Health announced last month it was finalizing negotiations for a 10-year lease for space within Electric Works. Plans call for a health care clinic, research facilities, and possible involvement with the project's planned food hall/public market.
IU officials also hope to draw Purdue University into a joint venture at Electric Works, Mirro said.
“Purdue would bring a lot to the table regarding materials science,” he added.
The importance of securing support from institutions of higher education cannot be overstated in evaluating Electric Works' viability. The success of innovation districts is driven by “eds and meds,” as developers refer to schools and hospitals.
Duke University's commitment to the American Tobacco campus has been critical to its success, according to economic development officials in Durham, North Carolina. The renovation project is widely considered the model for what could happen in Fort Wayne.
Before bankers or other investors would sign onto the American Tobacco campus, developers had to secure Duke's commitment to lease 150,000 square feet of office space. As of last year, the university occupied 220,000 square feet of the 600,000-square-foot total.
Duke operates its financial services, corporate education, government relations, general counsel, alumni association, information technology and real estate offices at American Tobacco campus.
Parkview announced its commitment to Electric Works last month.
“We believe in the redemptive qualities of this project and its potential to make our region more competitive when it comes to talent attraction,” Parkview President and CEO Mike Packnett said in a statement.
“We recognize that this project – and others currently underway in our community – are crucial to advancing our region as a destination for business growth, strong neighborhoods and quality-of-place characteristics that are attractive and unique.”