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The Journal Gazette

  • File Building 27 on the former GE campus is envisioned as the site of a future farmers' market.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 1:00 am

An Electric opportunity for city revitalization

James E. Geyer

The Electric Works project, in which owner and developer RTM Ventures, LLC proposes to restore and revitalize Fort Wayne's former General Electric plant, is an exciting project with the power to create a second era for this campus.

The GE campus was first home to the Fort Wayne Electric Company with the oldest building dating back to about 1893. At its peak in the 1920s, the General Electric campus employed roughly 40 percent of our city's workforce. The legacy of these buildings is one of productivity and prosperity, and, with the right planning and support, the campus can once again be an economic driver for Fort Wayne.

This project is undoubtedly one of the largest our community has seen. In fact, it's a “once in a generation” opportunity that holds the promise of helping Fort Wayne take another step toward securing a vibrant future.

The 21st century talent pool is choosing where to live based on quality-of-life factors. Access to walkable, beautiful and unique residential and commercial spaces is a critical ingredient to talent attraction. Anyone can agree that our impressions, memories and connections to place are based to a great extent on the physical environment. These intangibles such as “character” and “soul” are difficult to value in dollars – they are invaluable.

ARCH firmly believes that historic structures give a place meaning, differentiation, value and authenticity. At heart, a preservationist's goal is not simply to see an old building “preserved” like a museum but re-imagined, re-purposed and fittingly restored for future generations to be enriched by as they live and thrive in our community. Because of the developer's commitment to restoring the iconic buildings and bringing them to life again, ARCH enthusiastically supports this historic preservation project.

A 2011 study entitled “Measuring Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation,” commissioned by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency, concluded that “historic preservation has proven to be an effective tool for a wide range of public goals including small business incubation, affordable housing, sustainable development, neighborhood stabilization, center city revitalization, job creation, promotion of the arts and culture, small town renewal, heritage tourism, economic development, and others.” The study further observed that historic preservation is a “complex matrix of laws, incentives, policies and advocacy groups at the national, state and local level” and that this “network of interests spans geographical, political, social and economic perspectives.”

We applaud the many private citizens voicing their support for and actively engaging in the preservation of historic structures in our community. We also express our sincere appreciation for the public officials, professionals and organizations whose vision, diligence, thoughtfulness, advocacy, investment, cooperation and expertise will be critical to moving Electric Works forward for our community. It is fantastic to see our city embrace historic preservation and economic development.

James E. Geyer wrote this on behalf of the ARCH Inc. Board of Directors, for which he serves as president. The board voted unanimously in support of making this public declaration of support for the Electric Works project.