The highly discussed and anticipated Electric Works project has reached a “critical moment,” according to a letter posted on the project’s website. Partners at developer RTM Ventures said they need support from their community partners and citizens to make the vision a reality.
The plan for Electric Works is a 30-acre mixed-use retail, industry, institution and residential area at the site of the former General Electric campus on the southwest side of downtown Fort Wayne. Electric Works is expected to bring an annual economic impact of $387 million to Fort Wayne. It is also anticipated to bring nearly 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent positions.
Josh Parker, one of RTM’s partners, said there continues to be a small group of people in positions of influence and power who are working aggressively to thwart the progress of the project due to fear of change, or pursuit of financial profit or political gain. He explained that this has led to skittish investors and reluctant tenant prospects for Electric Works.
He would not name who was in the “small group.” He only said that people in the community need to double down in their support for the project to put a block on the opponents.
“In my experience, when the community has a united voice, folks like this who have been successful at slowing things down behind the scenes tend to get that message,” he said. “I think what’s happened is this is a long-term project and many of us have become complacent and assume the project’s just going to happen and I think it’s incumbent upon us to say this is complicated and long-term and this is a critical moment. I think the folks that may be showing some resistance to that, I think their minds can be changed. I think hearing from the community that this is still a priority and folks still want to see this get done is exactly the recipe for that.”
According to Parker, enormous progress with pre-leasing interest and commitments of significant federal and state financial support puts them on the brink of success. One-third of Electric Works’ tenant space has been claimed, but all has to be claimed for the project to move forward.
“We’ve got a lot of prospects and interests, but converting those into stabilized prospects is going to take some work and some effort and a lot of that has to do with their belief that this project is broadly supported and will get done,” he said. “So we are building that confidence and we’re looking to convert those prospects and we’re going to put all our energy into getting that done.”
Parker said RTM is looking for full regional support of their innovation district strategy, which will bring together institutions like universities and healthcare systems alongside entrepreneurs and industry professionals that can help grow and attract jobs into the region. He said the project will not move forward if current conditions of opposition are not changed.
“The national reputation of this community and the possibilities for its next generation are at stake,” he wrote in the letter.
Read the full letter at the Electrics Works website.
Councilman Geoff Paddock released a statement Monday about the project saying in part:
“It is not uncommon for large projects such as this to be delayed. We have seen this happen with Headwaters Park, Parkview Field, Skyline Plaza, and many other important downtown developments that have added economic vitality and jobs to our city.
We must stay the course with Electric Works. Thousands of concerned citizens, and a vast majority of citizens in the Fifth District, want to see this move forward. Public support is overwhelming, as the local news media has reported. Governmental entitles in Indiana have worked together as never before, and we must not let the cooperation and momentum cease.”
Fort Wayne city spokesman, John Perlich, released the following statement about the city’s stance on the project.
“The City of Fort Wayne remains an engaged and committed partner and wants to see Electric Works succeed. Our focus continues to be on doing all we can to help make Electric Works a reality. The public sector (Mayor Henry’s Administration/City Council, Allen County government, Capital Improvement Board, and Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission) has met all of the commitments to move the project along in a positive direction by securing $65 million in public funding to assist the private development team while also being thoughtful stewards of public money and protecting taxpayers. If we weren’t supportive of this initiative, the public governing bodies wouldn’t be investing the time, energy and resources it takes to move complex public-private partnership projects forward. We also know the developers continue to seek their needed private funding for the project and are working to get leasing commitments from tenants to occupy space at Electric Works. “
The project’s construction start goal is November 1.