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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Latest commitments bolster progress, support for Electric Works development

Electric Works has cleared another hurdle, and News-Sentinel.com believes it’s a good sign the developers will, indeed, transform the former General Electric campus on Broadway into a commercial, residential and innovation center as anticipated.

The consortium of developers known as RTM Ventures missed a Sept. 1 deadline to secure signed leases for at least 250,000 square feet at Electric Works to qualify for public funding. The deadline was extended.

Last week, Jeff Kingsbury, managing principal of Greenstreet Ltd., speaking for RTM Ventures, announced in a statement the developers have to date secured pre-leasing commitments for more than the 250,000 square feet of space, “including the master lease of the Electric Works Innovation Center and food hall/public market.”

Kingsbury’s firm partnered with Decatur-based Biggs Development and Baltimore-based Cross Street Partners to create RTM Ventures.

The $250 million public-private partnership project was created to redevelop the west side of the former General Electric complex off Broadway at 1030 Swinney Ave. into more than 1.2 million square feet of space for office, educational, innovation, retail, residential and entertainment uses. The complete redevelopment would include both sides of the Broadway complex at a total cost $440 million.

“We are continuing to identify subtenants for these important, unique, quality-of-place features of Electric Works,” Kingsbury’s Sept. 25 statement continued. He emphasized that 160,000 square feet of commercial or institutional space will be leased to tenants new to Allen County who will create hundreds of new jobs here.

Kingsbury said both the 250,000 and 160,000 figures “exceed the thresholds put forth in our Economic Development Agreement with the City of Fort Wayne and Allen County. Indeed, all the tenants we have signed to date are new to Allen County, expanding within Allen County, or relocating within Allen County and creating new jobs. These early results are consistent with extensive third-party research showing that a mixed-use, walkable innovation district model can help grow the market in Northeast Indiana.”

The latest announcements of tenants committing to the future Electric Works development came last week from the owners of Fort Wayne’s Conjure Coffee and Atlanta-based Sweetwater Urban Farms.

A week after the owner of Conjure Coffee announced he was opening a second location at the Foellinger-Freeman Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne native Corey Waldron announced he also signed a letter of intent to open a coffee bar and roastery in the Electric Works Innovation Center. Waldron, who founded Conjure in 2015, operates his retail and wholesale artisan-roasted coffee business at 701 Columbia Ave.

Meanwhile, Decatur native and Purdue graduate, Clint Crowe will bring his high-tech urban-farming concept of aeroponic technology to Fort Wayne in a greenhouse he plans to open at the planned Electric Works food hall. Crowe founded the company with his wife, Sheree, in 2017. According to RTM Ventures, Sweetwater Urban Farms plans to make produce available for delivery to local restaurants, hotels, health care institutions and schools.

“Moving forward,” Kingsbury said in his statement last week, “our priorities continue to be working with community and economic development leaders to define program partnerships between businesses, higher education institutions and the new STEAM high school, and recruiting innovative, growth-oriented companies for creative office space, as well as entrepreneurs and small businesses for the Electric Works Innovation Center.”

In light of last week’s announcement by RTM, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry released a statement of his own, saying, “We recognize that successful public-private partnerships can be complex and take time. We also know they’re critical to advancing our community and region as a point of destination for job and business growth, strong neighborhoods, and attractive quality of life amenities.”

The mayor reemphasized his desire — along with that of the city and other public partners financing the project — for the Electric Works development to succeed. And he said the city is a committed, engaged partner with the developers as the project moves forward.

The mayor concluded his statement, saying, “We stand beside the developers as they do all they can to secure tenants and their private financing.”

News-Sentinel.com believes the mayor’s support and RTM’s perseverance can go a long way to help secure the state and federal tax credits and local public and private investments still needed to carry this vision across the finish line.

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