The good, the bad and the property value
By Lucretia Cardenas | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
“The great news is there are going to be a lot of people; the bad news is there is going to be a lot of people,” Indianapolis developer Jeff Kingsbury said of the Electric Works project during a presentation to the West Central Neighborhood Association.
Kingsbury, managing principal at Greenstreet Ltd., is a member of the team of developers and architects redeveloping the former General Electric complex in downtown Fort Wayne.
The factory encompasses 1.2 million square feet within the boundaries of the West Central neighborhood, which includes 2,500 households bordered by Main, Taylor and Calhoun streets and Swinney Park.
Most of the West Central residents in attendance at the association meeting July 17 reside in the local historic district, which is located a few blocks away from the Electric Works project. So many residents attended the monthly meeting that the presentation was held in the chapel of Emmanuel Lutheran Church rather than the facility’s smaller general meeting space.
As such, a number of residents voiced concern about parking, particularly if the development is successful in attracting patrons to future businesses and activities there.
The developers and architects present at the presentation July 17 said they are also concerned about parking and have several plans in the works to address it.
“We recognize it’s an issue,” Kingsbury said.
Designers are currently considering talking to Fort Wayne city officials about constructing a spur road off Jefferson Boulevard to divert traffic heading east, toward the Electric Works project, thus avoiding the residential section of the residential historic district.
In addition, during the development of phase one of the project, the development team plans to utilize existing surface lots located south of Moody Park until the team can construct parking garages to serve the development, said Kevan Biggs, president and general manager of Biggs Property Management, a partner on the Electric Works project.
Phase one will involve the redevelopment of the former GE campus on the west side of Broadway and will mostly be dedicated to food space (including a farmer’s market), educational space, office space and retail. Some community spaces and housing will be included.
Phase two will incorporate the east side of the campus and will predominantly have housing and hospitality offerings. Phases three and four would include new development, most of which will take place where former GE buildings were previously torn down.
Currently, the team of developers, led by Baltimore-based Cross Street Partners, remains in the planning and design phase.
Technically, GE still owns the property, but the close date is set for mid-August, Biggs said.
If all goes according to plan, the design will be wrapped up sometime in the spring of 2018, with construction beginning mid-2018. Phase one would be completed in late 2019 or early 2020, with phase two beginning before or near the completion of phase two.
But, when the project breaks ground, the first course of action will be drying and stabilizing the buildings on the east campus and demolition of non-historic buildings.
“First thing you will see is demolition … nothing older than 43 years,” said Cory Miller, of Elevatus Architecture, one of a number of local architecture firms involved in the project.
Miller emphasized that the buildings to be torn down are all metal buildings that distract from the 1920s nostalgic look that the majority of the tall, brick buildings have.
In the meantime, despite construction yet to begin, West Central home prices are already on the rise.
Local real estate broker Brandon Steffen, who is a West Central resident, noted that property values in the neighborhood rose 20 percent of more over the past six months to a year, in general.
“We hope there will be an overall rise in property values; that’s one of the reasons the city and state have been so supportive,” said Kingsbury.
He added that the development team is also mindful of not displacing residents as property values rise.
Other concerns brought up during the association meeting involved improved pedestrian connectivity to the campus and the rest of downtown. The developers are in talks with CSX Transportation and the city to improve the safety and look of the underpass on Broadway. Also, developers are trying to determine who owns the former pedestrian tunnel from Union Street to the campus. The tunnel is currently closed off and unusable.