In our continuing visits to places within driving distance of Indianapolis, we come to Fort Wayne, Indiana’s second-largest city, where Electric Works and Promenade Park show how even a large city can reinvent itself.
In 2015, General Electric abandoned a 40-acre complex of 18 buildings on the southwest corner of downtown Fort Wayne that had once engaged an estimated 40 percent of the city’s entire work force. By that time, Fort Wayne’s historic waterfront a mile north, with three rivers converging near downtown, had also been largely abandoned. Enter determined leadership.
In 2019, the city opened Promenade Park on both banks of the St. Mary’s River. Costing $20 million, the 4.2-acre park includes a plaza, an amphitheater, an elevated nature trail and all sorts of activities. It has already spurred nearby developments. In 2017, RTM Ventures, LLC, an affiliate of developer Ancora, acquired the abandoned GE property, with the goal of redeveloping it as the Electric Works.
In 2021, after RTM Ventures had obtained $286 million from private sources, Allen County, the City of Fort Wayne and the state of Indiana, it began work on the West Campus. The West Campus opened in 2022, including commercial spaces, a medical clinic, a STEM school, a colorful food hall and market and the headquarters of Do it Best, Indiana’s largest private company. Construction on the East Campus, scheduled to begin in 2024, will create Elex, a residential community including 297 modern units. Named for an organization of GE female employees created in Fort Wayne in 1916, Elex will also include a 1,143-space parking garage, a fitness/wellness center and an early childhood learning center.
When you visit Promenade Park and Electric Works, be sure not to miss Fort Wayne’s iconic Coney Island wiener stand. Opened in 1914, it now serves an average of 2,000 hot dogs each day.