They call it the Market Building.
Electric Works' developers plan to include a year-round farmers market, space for culinary training and commercial kitchen equipment in Building 27, one of the first spaces scheduled for redevelopment on the former General Electric campus.
“Food is a kind of pixie dust that brings people together,” said Jeff Kingsbury, Greenstreet Limited's managing principal and Fort Wayne native.
In other words … if you bake it, they will come.
Indianapolis firm Greenstreet is partnering with Cross Street Partners and Decatur firm Biggs Development in the $300 million development of the 31-acre campus, which straddles Broadway near Taylor Street.
Kingsbury, Kevan Biggs and Cross Street's Josh Parker were in town Tuesday to meet with local movers and shakers in the culinary, arts and trails communities. Their goal was to gauge genuine interest and gather ideas that can be incorporated into building design.
About a dozen people attended each meeting, with about half from the community and the other half developers, architects and staffers.
The two-hour arts session included representatives from the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Artlink, Jennifer Ford Art, Sharon Eisbart Corporate Art and Wunderkammer Co.
At the culinary-focused session, Ryan Krueckeberg represented the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, a group that has managed a local farmers market for 13 years.
John Cheesebrew, who co-owns specialty catering business Bird + Cleaver, addressed the needs of catering operations. Spencer Mize, of CookSpring Shared Kitchen, represented local food trucks. And Patrick McCormick, who heads the hospitality department at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast, brought an education perspective to the discussion.
Josh Anderson, an architect with Indianapolis firm Anderson + Bohlander, unfurled drawings and talked about windows, square footage and other details.
“It's a great space,” he said. “It looks like it wants to be a market.”
Mize raised a concern about paying for utilities and other costs for a building of its size, about 66,000 square feet. Kingsbury said developers are considering opening the market area in stages to keep it from feeling “cavernous and empty” in the early years.
“Big spaces can feel uncomfortable when there's not a lot of activity going on,” he added.
About 200 vendors now rent booth space at the Barr Street market, and some are even turned away for lack of space, Krueckeberg said. He believes a local year-round market could succeed at least two days a week.
Ivy Tech's McCormick said the community college would be interested in organizing a competition for culinary entrepreneurs, allowing three finalists to operate pop-up restaurants for a month on the site and awarding the winner rent-free access to a location to get started.
Another idea floated was offering cooking classes to the public, everything from the basics to baking. The campus's 1.2 million square feet would make it possible to sponsor visiting culinary artisans, one person said. Those artisans could be given free access to an apartment on-site for a one-month visit.
Someone else suggested that allowing food trucks to sell at the market during the colder months would help those entrepreneurs stay in business.
The discussion included references to markets in Baltimore; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Findlay, Ohio. But no one suggested simply copying other cities' successes.
“We really want to find,” Kingsbury said, “what's the right secret sauce for food at Electric Works.”
The next steps in developing the former GE campus, now called Electric Works, include:
• Gathering documentation on qualifying the campus for historic building tax credits.
• Getting guidance on what changes can be made to the buildings while remaining eligible for historic tax credits.
• Preparing and submitting a remediation plan to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
• Obtaining exact measurements of each building for architectural design purposes.
• Working toward a final sale from General Electric to the developers, with an August goal.
• Signing prospective tenants to letters of intent.
• Securing bank loans based on those letters of intent.