- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - So far, GE hasn’t brought anything good to light.

But Fort Wayne preservationists haven’t given up on the idea that the familiar General Electric sign - and the building it sits atop - can have some type of presence in the city.

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, knows that ultimately, the fate of the sign - and GE’s campus southwest of downtown - is up to the company whose history in the city dates back to 1911.

“I want to make that clear,” he told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1zbTM37). “But we think something can be done.”

Something was done this month, but probably not what local historians wanted to see. GE, which is shutting down its 32-acre property on Broadway, auctioned off hardware, office equipment and scrap.

In late March, the company confirmed plans to close its two Fort Wayne operations, eliminating about 90 jobs in one year as it shifts work to Mexico. The business employs about 28 people at a local motor-testing lab and about 60 at its executive center on Coliseum Boulevard.

The future of the 13 largely vacant buildings along Broadway hasn’t been decided.

GE spokesman Matt Cronkrite said the company is continuing to wind down operations in Fort Wayne but has made no decisions about its property, including the sign.

“Nothing has changed at this point,” Cronkrite said. “We know there are some city officials interested in the property.”

Some ideas may have been tossed around, but nothing GE considers worth elaborating on, he said.

At least two other cities have inquired about the company’s iconic sign. In June, it was learned that officials at GE’s Louisville, Kentucky, plant asked about relocating the towering emblem.

And boosters in Cincinnati, where the company also has operations and is home to the American Sign Museum, inquired about the sign.

“I haven’t heard anything about it since (June),” said Tod Swormstedt, founder of the museum. “I know the sign is huge and, for a lot of people, is probably a symbol of better times.”

Paddock said there is momentum in the downtown area for restoring landmark buildings, which holds out hope for not only the GE sign but perhaps for at least some of the firm’s buildings.

“I’ll be meeting with the mayor next week and will bring it up,” Paddock said. “It would seem that something could work out there. Look at the Randall Building, for example.”

Randall Lofts is a mixed-use, $7.5 million five-story complex, where renovations were completed this summer. It took root inside a historic building at South Harrison and Pearl streets and includes 44 one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority awarded Randall Lofts nearly $675,000 annually for 10 years in rental housing tax credits.

The city of Fort Wayne contributed $600,000 in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program money, of which $450,000 is a loan and $150,000 is a forgivable loan. Are similar funds available for parts of the GE campus?

“We’d like to see what could be done,” Paddock said. “It’s worth exploring.”

___

Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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