A partner with RTM Ventures says the journey to closing on financing for the $286 million first phase of the Electric Works mixed-use innovation district in downtown Fort Wayne has been a “long and winding road.” Construction on the 12-acre West Campus at the former General Electric campus will begin immediately and Jeff Kingsbury says there is still a lot of work to do.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Kingsbury said hitting this milestone is an example of the benefits of public-private partnerships.

“This is not something that could’ve been accomplished solely by the private sector or solely by the public sector and so when we can combine and create a public-private partnership, we can really do extraordinary things,” said Kingsbury. “We acquired the property in 2017 and so it’s taken a long time to get to this point, compounded by a global pandemic, some market challenges and other hurdles. It just makes getting to this point truly rewarding.”

The developers have been working on environmental remediation at the site for some time, but Kingsbury says Fort Wayne-based Weigand Construction will begin the construction process in earnest. 

The West Campus is expected to take about two years to complete. Kingsbury says they expect to have the first tenants to be occupying space in the middle of 2022. That will be the STEAM high school from Fort Wayne Community Schools with anchor tenant Do It Best Corp. occupying the space that will serve as its new global headquarters later in the year.

The West Campus is just the first phase of the overall Electric Works project. Kingsbury says while their main focus is on the next two years of construction, the developers are already discussing what needs to come next, which includes affordable housing.

“Also, we’ll be continuing to engage with our partners in the community, Parkview Health for example, Indiana Tech, IU Ventures, Fort Wayne Community Schools, other higher ed institutions that want to join us in this effort to really drive the programming that’s going to be happening on the campus,” he said. “Real estate is an important part of this, but it’s really what happens in those buildings and on that campus that’s ultimately going to change people’s lives and that’s what we’re really going to be focused on really for the next two years and going forward.”

RTM Ventures says the project is expected to create nearly $300 million in economic impact during construction and nearly $400 million in annual economic impact when it is completed.

Kingsbury says hitting this milestone is an example of the benefits of public-private partnerships.