Fort Wayne’s former General Electric Company campus is being transformed into a modern-day mixed-use district called Electric Works that’s one of the largest projects of its kind in the Midwest and an important addition to Fort Wayne’s downtown. After five years of work, the countdown has begun toward opening the first phase next year.
“We’re almost 70 percent pre-leased on the west campus, which will be open to the public in about one year. Not all tenants will be in, but the buildings will be move-in ready,” says Jeff Kingsbury of Ancora, the lead developer of Electric Works. “We’ve been planning, putting together financing, and working with the community over the past five years to bring this project to life. We’re hoping it will be a center of gravity and a hub for innovation, energy, and culture for Northeast Indiana, while also being an inspiration for future job growth and more.”
In 2017, RTM Ventures LLC, a partnership led by Ancora and based in Durham, NC, acquired the former General Electric manufacturing campus, which consists of 39 acres and 18 historic buildings with 1.2 million square feet of space. The redevelopment of the GE campus and repurposing of its buildings and grounds is a public/private partnership between RTM Ventures and the City of Fort Wayne. The property is within easy walking distance of the downtown and riverfront.
The project is divided into numerous phases, the first having begun in January 2021 with an expected completion date in late 2022. The $286 million first phase includes more than 700,000 square feet of space for offices, education, healthcare, retail, entertainment and other community uses.
The $126 million second phase is still in planning stages and will include 297 apartments, an early childhood learning center, a fitness/wellness center, commercial space and a 1,141-space parking garage.
The anchor tenant is Do It Best, a member-owned hardware, lumber and building materials cooperative founded and headquartered in Fort Wayne that has grown into a global corporation. It does business in 50 countries and operates eight distribution centers and regional lumber offices across the U.S. The business will occupy 200,000 square feet of space on multiple floors in a building on the west side of the campus.
In June 2020, the Fort Wayne Community School Board approved a 10-year lease for the development of a new Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math high school (STEAM) at Electric Works, named Amp Lab.
Northeast Indiana’s first food hall and public market will be known as Union Street Market and is expected to open in 2022 at Electric Works, offering a range of regionally sourced fresh, specialty, and prepared foods and beverages. It will be a permanent location for the beloved Fort Wayne Farmers Market. Fort Wayne’s Conjure Coffee has signed a letter of intent to have an on-site café and coffee bar there.
Union Street Market will be open daily and will be home to more than two dozen merchants.
Other tenants already committed to leasing space are Fort Wayne Metals, Indiana University, Parkview Health, Medical Informatics Engineering, Fort Wayne Community Schools and Indiana Tech.
RTM Ventures focuses on urban redevelopment and is committed to community revitalization. Its partners have developed more than $1 billion of real estate in Indiana and across the U.S. It specializes in sophisticated capital structures, public/private partnerships, redevelopment and historic structures and helps with the application for federal, state and local tax credits and economic development incentive programs.
Business is booming in Fort Wayne due to Indiana’s competitive tax climate, business culture and state incentives, says Kingsbury. Residents have access to goods and services one would expect to find in a large city and Fort Wayne ranks high on several lists of the best cities in which to buy a house, raise a family, start a career or launch a business. The city also offers arts organizations, festivals, museums, sports teams, healthcare systems, and family-friendly activities including more than 200 lakes in Northeast Indiana and 2,805 acres of public parks.
The name “RTM Ventures” honors Ranald T. McDonald, a late-1800s entrepreneur who founded the Fort Wayne Electric Company on what later became the GE campus.
“More than 135,000 construction labor hours have been logged through the summer with 250 construction professionals on site daily,” says Kingsbury. “Nearly 2,000 construction-related jobs in Northeast Indiana are supported by the project during the two-year construction phase, with an estimated $248 million economic impact.” ❚