The group of citizens considering how General Electric’s vacant Fort Wayne campus could be reused will be seeking input on its ideas from the broader community, perhaps as early as the start of the new year.
Meeting periodically for the past six months, the group is joining the economic development agency Greater Fort Wayne Inc. to host what organizers call "public facilitated discussions" on alternatives for reusing the 32 acres and 30 buildings along Broadway, said Geoff Paddock, the group’s organizer at a meeting Thursday afternoon.
The discussions will be organized with the help of IPFW’s Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics and its director, Andy Downs, said Paddock, a Democrat who represents Fort Wayne’s 5th district on the City Council. GE’s property is in his district.
Greater Fort Wayne is providing financial support of about $2,600 to conduct the sessions, Paddock said.
Downs said he would first meet with members of the group’s visioning subcommittee, who have been gathering ideas for the facilities reuse. He would also then meet with stakeholders who might be involved in formulating or executing those ideas.
The ideas would be whittled down to three or four alternatives with pros and cons for each and presented to the public at three meetings. Small groups would then discuss each alternative and make recommendations.
An ensuing report would be taken to Greater Fort Wayne to initiate discussions with GE, Paddock said, adding that Greater Fort Wayne leverages the group’s work. Neither the citizens group nor Greater Fort Wayne has had any direct contact with General Electric officials, he said, on Greater Fort Wayne’s advice.
"I think what is significant is the involvement of Greater Fort Wayne," Paddock said. "It gives our efforts a lot of credibility … that they see the merit of at least examining repurposing one or more of those buildings."
Paddock said Greater Fort Wayne has cautioned that some proposals would take considerable funding and private sector support, and that would be examined as part of the recommendations process.
Although there hasn’t been a timetable worked out for the meetings, Downs said, "I would be surprised if we’re still (at it) in February."
The campus has been empty since February when the last workers left, about a year after GE announced it would shut down operations and leave Fort Wayne after a presence in the city spanning more than 100 years.