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  • Courtesy Renderings for GE -

  • Courtesy Renderings for GE -

  • Courtesy Renderings for GE -

Monday, February 13, 2017 10:53 pm

Baltimore firm to develop local GE campus

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

General Electric has chosen a Baltimore firm to develop its 31-acre local campus, a project estimated at roughly $284 million, officials are scheduled to announce today.

But rather than unveiling a detailed plan, the announcement will invite the community to continue offering suggestions for the site where 10,000 people once worked.

Cross Street Partners was one of four firms that submitted detailed proposals last summer in a bid to transform about 1.2 million square feet into a place where people can work, play, learn and live, said Eric Doden, Greater Fort Wayne Inc.'s CEO.

Doden briefed members of the media Friday, sharing a broad outline before a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. today. All participants agreed to honor an embargo on the information until the beginning of the news briefing. Local and state officials, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, are scheduled to participate along with Joshua Parker, Cross Street's lead operating partner.

Local firm Biggs Development, headed by Kevan Biggs, and Indianapolis firm Greenstreet Limited are partnering with Cross Street on the project.

Parker was in Colorado skiing with his family Friday, but discussed the development by phone with The Journal Gazette.

Initial steps, he said, include scheduling more community conversations. The firm wants to learn what types of housing, amenities, offices and educational opportunities people are willing to support.

Cross Street wants the feedback despite having access to comments neighbors made early last year in three moderated listening sessions.

"If we knew what we expected to hear, we probably wouldn't need (the ideas)," Parker said.

Among his priorities, however, are preserving at least some of the historical structures that date back to the 1800s, offering housing at various price points, and creating places that help retain and recruit talent.

"It comes back to listening to the community and seeing where the opportunities are," he said.

GE officials chose the developer and is negotiating directly with that firm, Doden said.

"Ultimately, it was their process and their choice," he said.

Greater Fort Wayne can play a role in connecting potential tenants with the developer and offering other support, Doden said.

"Really, our job just begins," he said, adding that the economic development group's goal is to facilitate 200,000 square feet of leases. "Now is really the fun part."

After word leaked last week that a GE-related announcement was planned, some potential tenants contacted Doden and his staff, looking for an introduction to the developers.

"It's simply the most transformational project I've worked on in my career, simply because of the size and the scale and the history," said Doden, who is former head of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Last October, GE officials confirmed they'd narrowed the applications to one firm and were entering negotiations on the property that straddles Broadway, just south of downtown.

Parker confirmed some details remain before the agreement is final, including environmental testing and agency approval of the firm's proposed remediation plans.

Although GE employed 10,000 workers on the campus at the height of its use during World War II, the site has been largely abandoned in recent years. The last workers left in late 2015 when BAE Systems moved from leased space into its own building near Fort Wayne International Airport.

A preliminary breakdown of how Cross Street expects to use the space is:

* 342,000 square feet of residential;

* 277,000 square feet of educational;  

* 137,000 square feet of retail;

* 131,000 square feet of office;

* 54,000 square feet of amenities.

Exactly how much space will be devoted to each area will depend on market demand, Doden said. The former industrial site wouldn't have any space devoted to industrial uses.

For a package of stories, photos and more on the GE campus, see Tuesday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 1 a.m. Tuesday.

sslater@jg.net