Local partners key to GE project

February 17th, 2017

By Linda Lipp | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

The proposed redevelopment of the GE campus in downtown Fort Wayne brings together a large team of local and regional architecture, engineering and planning partners.

“Everybody could work on any portion of the project, but I don’t think any firm in town is big enough to take it all on at the speed and intensity we’re talking about,” said Cory Miller, of Elevatus Architecture.

Although the three-to-four year timeline for the project may seem like plenty of time, “it’s really aggressive” considering what has to be done, Miller said.

Cross Street Partners, the Baltimore-based lead developer on the project, started meeting with folks last summer as it looked at offering a proposal for the property, said Josh Parker, the firm’s chief investment officer.

“I was impressed with the strength of engineering and design talent for a city the size of Fort Wayne,” he said.

Cross Street subsequently selected Elevatus as the “quarterback” of the project, and proposed bringing in other firms to do it as a sort of joint venture.

“The response was an enthusiastic yes, so we were kind of able to have our cake and eat it too,” Parker said.

Among the local architectural firms on the team are Design Collaborative, MSKTD & Associates, Hoch Associates, Martin/Riley and Viridian Architectural Design. Team members have experience in everything from residential development and higher education to big box stores and small mom-and-pop retail.

Two local engineering firms, Engineering Resources, which specializes in civil and structural engineering, and SCO Engineering, which does mechanical and electrical engineering, also are on team. Cross Street’s Indiana development partners are home builder Kevan Biggs, of Ideal Homes in Decatur; and Jeff Kingsbury, of Greenstreet Ltd., an Indianapolis-based real estate development, brokerage and consulting firm.

Together, the partners “have the resources to do what ever it takes, and we have the expertise on this team for whatever falls in our laps over there,” Miller said. “That mix is why this team came together.”

To begin with, the pieces of the campus have essentially been divvied up among the architectural firms. The first step for the team is to document the structure and campus as it is today, and stabilize buildings as necessary, Miller said. A three-dimensional computer model will be created, environmental issues will be assessed and historic features will be documented for preservation purposes.

The original proposal for the campus was, in a sense, developed in a vacuum, Miller said, “without public input because it wasn’t supposed to be public,” Miller said. As the design process continues, the neighborhood association, the business community and others will be brought in to the planning process.

Viridian, with its expertise in Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) projects, has a particularly demanding role in the project. Cross Street has an internal company goal of trying to achieve LEED Gold level certification on the buildings it renovates, Parker said, and Viridian will oversee the work of other architects and engineers to help achieve that goal.

“We’ll be kind of looking over their shoulders,” said Terry Thornsbury, Viridian’s founder.

The buildings and the east and west campuses have already been registered with the U.S. Green Building Council, which oversees the LEED certification process.

“The goal is to make the whole campus as sustainable as possible,” Thornsbury said.

What is done to achieve LEED goals with each building will depend on what there is to work with and how the spaces ultimately will be used, he added.

A few Indianapolis firms are also on the team. Anderson + Bohlander, with experience in both urban planning and landscape architecture, will be working will all the members of the team and the public, “to distill everyone’s wants and desires into a feasible plan that will make sense for the development team and everyone else involved in the way the buildings are renovated, new infrastructure is arranged and that sort of thing,” said partner Joshua Anderson. “One of the key goals is to make the most of the existing historic architecture.”

The company also will develop plans for new and existing green spaces appropriate for the “innovation district” the campus will become, Anderson said.

Heritage Consulting, of Portland, Ore., will be involved in the historic preservation assessment and preservation process, which is an important component since the developer intends to seek historic preservation tax credits as part of its funding package. Decisions about what buildings are significant - as well as viable - will be made down the road, Parker said.

Greenstreet and Big Car Collaborative, also of Indianapolis, will be involved in community, business and artistic engagement. Hull Inc., a Columbus, Ohio, firm. will be validating environmental information obtained from GE and developing remediation plans as needed.

“I think everybody on the team has been just waiting, because we’ve sniffing at this and helping out behind the scenes for about a year now,” Miller said. “It’s exciting to see it get some legs and start moving.”