The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, February 14, 2020 1:00 am

News 'a long time coming'

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Reactions to Thursday's Electric Works announcement of anchor tenant Do it Best Corp.

Steve McMichael, New Haven mayor

McMichael said he rejects the idea that Fort Wayne somehow “poached” employees from New Haven, where Do it Best now has its headquarters.

“Let's say they moved out of the area. Then you would have had employees who would have to make a choice between moving for a job and staying and not having a job, and that would not be a good thing,” he said.

He anticipates many Do it Best employees will continue to live in New Haven and expects to work with company officials to market the former headquarters to a new company.

McMichael, a Realtor, said he considers that the property, with a nice building, rail access and proximity to major roads and interstates, will find a tenant in the time it takes for Electric Works to be ready.

“I think it presents a great opportunity for somebody,” he said.

“While I am saddened by the news that Do it Best, a great corporate resident of New Haven since 1948, is moving to Electric Works, I am optimistic about the future of the entire Fort Wayne region of which New Haven is proud to be a big part.”

Fort Wayne City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th

Paddock represents the district where the project is located and includes West Central. He was involved in the project early on but found some of his constituents growing discouraged. 

“Just a few weeks ago, there were folks calling me saying they didn't think this could ever happen. I told them it was important for folks not to panic ... and now finally we have the anchor tenant secured and things can happen.”

Because the project will be mixed-use, “I think it will be one that our neighborhood will be comfortable with,” Paddock said. The use will encourage other smaller businesses neighbors can patronize and likely won't have extensive truck traffic.

Yoshanda Blackmon,

Fort Wayne resident

“I'm very excited about the prospect of Electric Works and what it is going to bring to the city for our under- and unemployed people and our entrepreneurs and business owners.

“We have a lot ... to be thankful about,” she said.

State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne

GiaQuinta said the project, located in his district, “has been a long time coming” but is “great for the neighborhood.”

The project “is doing what we started downtown and moving it outward to the neighborhoods,” he said.

He added it also shows the effect of a bill he was involved in sponsoring to enable the Allen County Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board. The CIB contributed $45 million to the project.

“It's just the kind of transformative projects we were thinking of,”  he said.

Fort Wayne City Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large

Hines said he had heard awhile ago that Do It Best was looking to move out of the area, perhaps to another state, and he sees the project as “a major job-retention” effort. He said it could help rejuvenate the Fort Wayne's south side.

“Jobs always help the city as a whole,” Hines said. “I'm excited that plans have come to fruition. Many naysayers said they never would.”

He added: “It's not that Do it Best is just moving from Point A or to Point B. It's instead of them going to Ohio or Michigan or somewhere else.”

Julie Hollingsworth, president of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board

Hollingsworth praised the vision of Superintendent Wendy Robinson for seeing the potential for the project to have an educational component “from the very beginning.”

“We have a vision for a school for high school students that would be on the career center model, with unique programming in technical, manufacturing, medical and other fields,” she said.

“We're really looking forward to partnering with (Do it Best) and all the companies who are going to be here.”

Mike Anderson, West Central activist and residential real estate investor

Anderson said he anticipates increased interest in West Central homes south of the railroad tracks and near Electric Works. He noted it would be nice if the anchor tenant brought in new people, but added that Do it Best's 20% job growth means some people will be looking for nearby residences.

Homes around Electric Works include large Victorian-era houses and small workers cottages, some located on brick streets flanked by tall trees.

“It will open up the whole Broadway corridor district and near the south side” as more attractive to investors and homeowners alike. “It's going to be transforming,” he said. “Property values are already going up.”   

Charlotte Weybright,

West Central resident

and historic preservationist

Weybright was an early proponent of the project, organizing a sidewalk rally to publicize the plight of the former General Electric campus. 

“We started five years ago this month. It's been a long time coming, but now we're really hopeful that we're going to retain part of our history.”

The project will have a positive impact on the neighborhood, the city, the region and the state, she said. 

It's a one of a kind project, Weybright said. “I call it a once-in-a-century project.”

rsalter@jg.net


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