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updated: 11/19/2012 8:09 AM

Big GE complex in Fort Wayne faces unclear future

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  • Circa 1940 postcard of General Electric complex in Fort Wane.

    Circa 1940 postcard of General Electric complex in Fort Wane.

Associated Press

By January, just 30 employees will remain at the General Electric campus that covers 1 million square feet and decades ago employed nearly 10,000 people making electric motors.

The Journal Gazette reported Sunday that the site on the edge of Fort Wayne's reinvigorated downtown area is so large that GE officials are assessing what they have and what issues the aging buildings face.

"They're still in the process of inventorying what's there," said Greg Leatherman, the city's redevelopment director. "They're looking at condition, previous uses and the ability to readapt them."

General Electric has had a presence at the site since 1911, when it bought the former Jenney Electric Light Co. and two streets were made one-way to aid the flow of traffic bringing thousands of employees in and out of the plant at shift change.

In October, when the company announced it was moving 130 employees who had worked at the downtown complex to an office park, GE spokesman Matt Conkrite said the company would prepare the buildings for long-term weather exposure to prevent them from decaying.

He said GE officials are committed to what's best for Fort Wayne.

"Mostly, we've just been talking about what we're doing with the buildings," Conkrite aid.

The future of the property, which stretches nearly three-fifths of a mile east and west, likely will be shaped by the fact that it sits in the middle of an Urban Enterprise Zone. Businesses locating in that zone can tap into a range of incentives.

"There are wonderful incentives available. And on top of that, you're smack dab against downtown and the Broadway corridor is booming," Urban Enterprise Association Director Gina Kostoff said. "It's really an area that can be ripe for so many things."

In addition to property tax breaks, Kostoff said, there are tax credits for hiring employees who live within the zone, tax credits for the employees and tax credits for interest on loans and investments.

Those incentives are part of what city officials say will be required for turning the campus into a public-private partnership.

"The city's not going to do anything on its own," said John Urbahns, director of Community Development.

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