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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy An artist's rendering shows what the Electric Works project could look like after development.

Sunday, September 24, 2017 1:00 am

Deal for former GE site closes

Next step: Remediation of 39-acre property

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Electric Works' Phase I is expected to include:

• 224,000 square feet of office space

• 113,000 square feet of educational/institutional space

• 83,000 square feet of retail space, including restaurants and a food hall

• 83,000 square feet of dedicated innovation space

• 82,000 square feet of residential space

• 31,000 square feet of recreational and amenity space

Source: RTM Ventures

The former local General Electric campus is officially out of GE's hands.

RTM Ventures has completed a $5.5 million acquisition of the 39-acre property just south of Fort Wayne's downtown core, officials told The Journal Gazette.

RTM Ventures is a joint venture created by Cross Street Partners, of Baltimore; Greenstreet Ltd., of Indianapolis; and Biggs Development, of Decatur.

The firms and their plans for the campus now called Electric Works were unveiled to the public in February during a ceremony attended by Gov. Eric Holcomb, Mayor Tom Henry and other city and county officials. The $300 million, mixed-use development will be funded with a combination of private and public money.

The RTM Ventures name honors local entrepreneur Ranald T. MacDonald, who launched the Fort Wayne Electric Co. on the GE campus in the late 1800s. G.E. acquired Fort Wayne Electric in the early 1900s.

Although Thursday's closing might seem like a minor step in the multiyear process, developer Kevan Biggs didn't take it for granted.

“Every closing of a real estate transaction – anything of this size – is significant,” he said Friday afternoon. “As they say, it's never a done deal until it's done.”

A GE corporate spokeswoman provided a statement on behalf of the company that employed 10,000 workers on the site at the height of World War II.

“GE appreciates the leadership of the city of Fort Wayne, Mayor Henry, the state of Indiana and Greater Fort Wayne Inc., and their support to reposition the site in ways that will benefit the local Fort Wayne community and meet the needs of the local market,” Tara DiJulio said.

Months ago, officials estimated the real estate deal would close in late summer. That proved to be a good guess. The paperwork was finalized shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, the last day of summer.

“We're going to try to keep the timeline at all costs,” Biggs said, laughing at the close call. “It's an aggressive one, but we'll do our best.”

Next steps for the campus include removing hazardous materials. The developers hope to begin that work by the end of the year.

They have budgeted $3.5 million to $9 million for remediation, based on their own inspections and information provided by GE. The wide range reflects the unknown percentage of lead in paint found throughout the buildings, Biggs said. The more lead, the higher the disposal costs.

Crews will also remove unsightly, metal add-ons to some of the historic buildings.

RTM Ventures' financial team will use the coming months to apply for and secure various federal and state grants that encourage developers to renovate abandoned industrial buildings with historic significance.

Meanwhile, the sales crew will line up commitments from anchor tenants for Phase I, which will be 691,000 square feet west of Broadway.

The developers plan to put big pieces of the puzzle in place before allowing smaller potential tenants to sign letters of intent. Occupancy is forecast for late 2019 or early 2020. 

“We've been very pleased with the amount of interest people are expressing,” said Biggs, who declined to reveal names.

The partners provided a breakdown of how many square feet will be devoted to each of various uses. The formula has been successful in other cities, Biggs said.

“I wouldn't say they're cast in stone, but there's a recipe we kind of need to adhere to if the cake is going to bake the way we want it to,” he said.

The goal is to create an area full of activity 18 hours a day, he added. Without residents, restaurants and other evening activities, the place could become a ghost town after 5 p.m.

The “dance” of lining up tenants and funding sources, as Biggs described it, will culminate in late spring or early summer when the full, $220 million funding package is expected to close.

“It's a whole different story” from last week's real estate closing, he said. “That will literally take multiple days to work through all the signature pages.”

sslater@jg.net