Public wants ‘significant’ use of GE site

May 13th, 2016

News Coverage:

May 12, 2016

Public wants 'significant' use of GE site

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne-area residents want the former General Electric campus just south of downtown preserved for its historic significance – and redeveloped with an “anchor” attraction that could draw people from throughout the city and region.

Those are the main findings of a report summarizing three community roundtables in February that sought input on the future of the vacant 32-acre complex along Broadway.

Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics who facilitated the roundtables, presented the findings Wednesday to a meeting of the General Electric Campus Coalition.

The coalition commissioned the roundtables through funding provided by Greater Fort Wayne Inc., an economic development group. 

Although the roundtables were not designed to provide a representative sample of the population, Downs said, they were well attended with about 155 participants. 

“The thing people were really looking for was a major use, plus leaving significant square footage for future development,” he said. “People are looking for something with a master plan and an anchor.

“People do want to see something significant happen; don’t just throw in a couple of shops.”

Ideally, attendees said, the project should be able to generate sufficient revenue so that public-dollar investment is limited.

Kirk Moriarty, Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s director of downtown business development, said at the meeting that a draft copy of the report was delivered to GE officials in the last two weeks.

He said a “productive” relationship was developing between the group and GE officials, whom he said he was not at liberty to name. 

GE still controls the property, so it’s not possible to market it directly, Moriarty said.

But Greater Fort Wayne can discuss the site with those interested in investing in the area, he said following the meeting.

“(We should) allow (GE officials) to digest this and to incorporate this into their thinking. We will continue to follow up with GE,” Moriarty said.

Mike Galbraith, executive director of ARCH, Fort Wayne’s nonprofit historic architecture preservation group, said he was pleased at the high value placed on preservation by roundtable participants.

The roundtables started at a neutral point and did not assume the site needed to be preserved, he said.

“I think it’s a tremendously optimistic statement” that conveys how much participants care about the GE heritage, Galbraith said.

“One thing with old buildings is that it’s often a waiting game,” he added, noting it can take years or decades to get a site redeveloped.

Convened by City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, in whose district the campus lies, the coalition is made up of individuals and is not a government entity. It has no ability to control the site or money to work on it.