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The Journal Gazette

Monday, February 20, 2017 10:02 pm

Some quirks still remain in GE deal

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Before investors can sink an estimated $300 million into redeveloping the local GE campus, some details must be addressed.

The former industrial site, which sprawls across 31 acres just south of downtown, could have contamination issues. Identifying contaminants and remediation plans will be settled before General Electric signs the sales contract with developer Cross Street Partners.

The close is expected sometime this summer.

And, of course, the developers will need to make sure the property is properly zoned for residential, commercial, retail and educational use. Each of those uses is included in the preliminary plans.

But even before getting to that point, Cross Street officials had to make sure that they would have the rights to the full campus, which is about the size of Glenbrook Square and surrounding parking lots. 

Norfolk Southern Railroad owned a portion of the land, which it leased to GE over the years. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s staff worked behind the scenes to bring the corporate giants together to agree on a price for the property, making the sale to Cross Street possible.

"This $284 million redevelopment project will put these buildings back into use, bringing jobs and economic opportunity to Fort Wayne," Donnelly said in a statement. 

Eric Doden, CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., and Mayor Tom Henry each acknowledged Donnelly’s assistance during the project’s unveiling last week. 

Another nagging detail is Indiana Michigan Power’s plan to build a $50 million substation southwest of downtown. Plans call for power lines to run through the GE campus.

Tracy Warner, I&M spokesman, said the Melita Substation project is going ahead as planned along the railroad tracks, a route chosen after a series of public meetings to gather community input. The investment is needed, he said, so the utility can continue to provide reliable power to downtown customers.

But there seems to be a bit of wiggle room, according to Joshua Parker, Cross Street Partners’ lead operating partner.

I&M officials have indicated the transformer’s location is set, Parker said, "But I think they’re open to adjusting things, burying (some wires)."

Another major downtown project, the city’s almost $200 million project to update the outdated sewer/stormwater system so that heavy rains won’t send sewage overflow into Fort Wayne rivers, won’t cause Parker’s group any headaches.

The multiyear project, which calls for burrowing deep underground, won’t go near the GE campus, city officials said. 

sslater@jg.net