Today, one of GE’s epicenters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that originally opened in 1883, has been reimagined to ignite that ingenuity culture again. Once a manufacturing campus from a different era, Electric Works has become a novel mixed-use district of innovation, culture and community seamlessly integrated into the city’s downtown.
The importance of this GE site to For Wayne’s history cannot be overstated. At its peak in 1944, GE employed about a third of Fort Wayne’s workforce. And, in a Bloomberg story about the project, Josh Parker, CEO of Ancora (who acquired the property in 2017) said, “The emotional weight that (this) industrial complex has on this community can’t be overstated.”
In its entirety, Electric Works spans 39 acres and creates new opportunities for work, recreation, housing, retail, education and more. It is a stunning urban solution that charts a brighter future for Fort Wayne. We were proud to partner with Ancora, Carr Workplaces and others to help design high performance workplaces and office space throughout the complex. Here is a deeper look at the design solution.
Innovation culture unleashed
There is an incredible diversity of office space possibilities infused throughout Electric Works including a coworking floor, office suites and build-to-suit offices on longer leases. The spaces make the most of the remarkably strong existing “bones” of the building, creating opportunities for wonderful juxtaposition between old and new that differentiate the complex. There is also a building equipped with conference spaces that can hold anywhere from 6 to 100 people with full-service event coordination.
This breadth of work environments allows Electric Works to empower organizations of all types and scales, from start-ups to long standing companies and even short-term project teams. Surrounding the workspaces are state-of-the-art amenities, wellness offerings and indelible energy and culture.
Our design of these spaces is true to the history of GE and focuses on innovation. Just as GE sought to unlock discovery at every turn, Electric Works is reimagined to fuel entrepreneurship, foster diversity, equity and inclusion, forge connections, embrace and invite its community in... all while establishing a new center for innovation in the heart of Fort Wayne.
Talking with the New York Times, Ancora’s Chief Connectivity Officer Jeff Kingsbury said, “There is a lot of interesting stuff happening around Fort Wayne, but (it’s) happening within silos. By creating this kind of center of gravity, we achieve a density, coupled with amenities, that really helps to draw innovation.”
Throughout each dimension of the design of the innovative work areas across Electric Works, our design team intentionally infused lighting, color, patterns, and furniture to energize the shared collaborative spaces. Flexible furniture and desk areas allow for users to work via their preferred style and take charge of their day.
“This was an incredible project for our team through which we were able to give agency to employees, to companies, to an entire urban community,” explains Rita Radley, who led the interior design efforts for CannonDesign. “We sought to create a landscape of workspaces with a variety of postures to foster collaboration and respond to a range of generations. Electric Works’ magic is how it brings together disparate teams who might not otherwise work together – we wanted to help those teams connect and seize opportunities.
An authentic community design
Our engagement with Electric Works and Ancora always focused on creating authentic spaces that reflect both Fort Wayne, IN and GE.
To ensure local culture and vibrancy, the design relied extensively on local manufacturers and artists. For help with art curation, we engaged Field Trip Art Advisory given their wonderful mission to “support local artists in order to engage the community, start a dialogue with visitors and ultimately invigorate local economy.” There are also very symbolic nods to the project’s home city throughout the design including the infusion of copper accents. These correlate to copper wire being invented in Fort Wayne.
Similarly, GE’s legacy echoes across the design through stunning murals depicting key moments in the company’s history, copper chandeliers resembling patent drawings of the GE Dynamo Generator, and a commitment to “innovative energy.” The team carried this idea forward with dynamic lighting, color, and patterns throughout the spaces.
Energy is foundational to the design solution. From dynamic lighting solutions, bold use of color and pattern, and a purposely and carefully curated environment that pays homage to the heritage of Fort Wayne and GE, we sought to infuse the space with innovative energy to empower Electrics Works toward a bold future.Rita Radley Interior Design Leader, CannonDesign
“To be able to have my signature on works in a space this beautiful, I’m humbled. We took a space that was static and gave it new life,” explains Matt. “With new developments like this, I think it’s essential to fill them with local art. It makes it feel more genuine and it’s a sign of respect for the community.”
Beyond its local focus, the artwork selected for Electric Works also reinforces key messaging around inclusion, connectivity, human potential, and bright ideas.
Innovation for generations
Given the immense scale of the Electric Works redevelopment, it is a multi-phase effort that will span years. We are excited the workplaces have now opened amidst other resources including a food hall, areas for galleries, farmers markets, an education lab and more. Reflecting on this project, it is exciting to see it already helping blaze new trails.
“Throughout our work with Ancora and Carr, there is this ever-present theme of history and future. Electric Works is a testament to innovation of the past. GE reshaped our economy and society in profound ways,” said our client leader Michelle Rotherham. “As we designed these modern solutions, we preserved Electric Works legacy and future. We asked ourselves, ‘what will people say decades from now about the solutions we are shaping right now?’ and we’re proud of the outcome."
It all adds up to a remarkable new chapter for the storied GE campus in Fort Wayne. Electric Works is ready to redefine its purpose, and in doing so, redefine how work and ingenuity drive a community forward.