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Elevatus Captures History in the Revitalization of the Former GE Campus at Electric Works with TrueLook

“TrueLook gives the Fort Wayne community a front-row seat so they can watch the renovation and transformation of their city’s landmark GE campus unfold. They’re enabling us to stay true to our promise to the community that we’ll provide total transparency and document the entire project from start to finish.”

— CORY DIETZ Partner, Business Development Director, Elevatus


Company:

Elevatus Architecture

Goals:
  • Document the adaptive reuse project from start to finish with detailed visual imagery
  • Foster community support and involvement by providing total transparency
  • Facilitate efficient collaboration amongst owners, partners and stakeholders
  • Streamline decision-making and enable real-time troubleshooting as issues arise
Customer Since:

2018

Results:
  • Documented history in the making with captivating time-lapses and high-quality digital imagery
  • Provided a window into the project for community members to watch the transformation of a beloved landmark
  • Improved collaboration with remote live viewing, eliminating travel and accelerating decision-making
  • Improved jobsite visibility to mitigate risk and keep the project on schedule and on-budget

A Community Landmark Takes on New Significance For the people of Fort Wayne, Indiana

Revitalization of the Former GE Campus
Revitalization of the Former GE Campus

The former General Electric campus is iconic. With its signature exposed brick facade and towering columns, it’s more than just an architectural point of interest — it’s a treasured historical landmark that’s symbolic of the community’s evolution across multiple generations. Elevatus Architecture, an architectural firm local to Fort Wayne with a history in the community dating back 63 years, has been hired to lead a large group of architects and specialists to renovate and redevelop the historic GE campus, which comprises 18 buildings and spans more than 1.2 million square feet. The goal is to transform it into a thriving mixed-use district of innovation, culture and community called “Electric Works.” The massive, $400 million development which is funded via a public-private partnership, and with a $35.7 million in federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) equity is the largest investment in history by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation. Electric Works will be a focal point of the city, providing a gathering place for community members to live, work, interact, shop, eat, play, and access educational and healthcare services. A flagship business that will be among the first to move in is “Do It Best,” a global hardware co-op.

“The positivity and community support behind this renovation project has been immense,” said Cory Dietz, Partner, Business Development Director at Elevatus. “It’s such a massive undertaking, and it’s helping us build a greater footprint in the Midwest. It’s a humbling experience.” Since the purchase of the property in Fall 2017, the process to redevelop the plant site has been meticulous involving community input and partners. Construction for the first phase of the Electric Works project largely began in Fall 2020 with the redevelopment of a 700,000 square foot section of the campus, and a target completion date of October 2022. Before breaking ground, Elevatus made sure they had TrueLookbconstruction cameras onsite.

Documenting History as It Takes Shape

Elevatus has been using TrueLook cameras since 2018 across numerous projects. With a focus on serving the Justice and Education markets, the firm relies on the cameras as an essential part of the construction process. “TrueLook cameras enable us to document construction projects from start to finish, increase transparency by enabling stakeholders to view projects remotely, and provide a sense of security for the crews,” said Brett Gauger, Marketing Communications Specialist at Elevatus. “TrueLook cameras are a monumental part of the Electric Works project because we are documenting history in the making. We’re collecting photos and videos of every single moment of construction on that campus and sharing it with the community, so they can be a part of it.”

Revitalization of the Former GE Campus

According to Dietz, who sat on the visioning component of the GE task force for the project, the integrity of the building and much of the original architectural characteristics will be maintained, including a new building on the West Campus. “People in the Fort Wayne community are emotionally attached to the GE campus because it’s been part of their family history for generations,” he said. “TrueLook gives the Fort Wayne community a front-row seat, so they can watch the renovation and transformation of their city’s landmark GE campus unfold. They’re enabling us to stay true to our promise to the community: that we’ll provide total transparency and document the entire project from start to finish.”

Choosing the Best Cameras for the Job

With so many moving parts, Elevatus decided to install three fixed-position 12-megapixel TrueLook cameras at various locations throughout the campus. One camera on the southwest end of campus points northeast to capture activities surrounding three of the largest buildings. Another peers down “Dynamo Alley,” the main drag through the middle of campus. Finally, a third camera positioned on a rooftop provides a bird’s-eye view and an immersive experience for visitors to the Elevatus website.
Gauger said TrueLook’s solar-powered options enabled select cameras to be installed in strategic locations, even though a power source was not available, to provide the public with optimal views of the campus throughout construction. “The public isn’t allowed on the jobsite, and we wanted to provide a window into the project to help keep the community informed and engaged,” he said. “We used TrueLook’s website embed feature to enable anyone to see the project at any time on our Portfolio page.”

Dietz said a big advantage to TrueLook cameras is the ability to own the hardware, so they can move the cameras from project to project, install them quickly and simply turn on the service when needed. “We’re truly impressed by the durability and quality of TrueLook cameras, and their ability to operate in all conditions,” he said.

Simplifying Project Management and Documentation

According to Gauger, a primary use case for TrueLook cameras on Electric Works and other projects is to streamline and improve project management. “There’s no such thing as a perfect project, and it’s important to catch mistakes early to avoid delays or unnecessary costs,” he said, adding that he checks the camera views multiple times per day. “With TrueLook cameras, you can check-in at any time from anywhere to make sure things are progressing as planned,” Dietz recalled one incident in which a potentially costly mistake was caught on camera and spotted by the firm’s technical specifications writer. “He was looking at the camera views and noticed that workers were installing exterior sheathing on a building that was a different color than what was being used on the rest of the building,” Dietz explained. “[The technical specifications writer] alerted us to the mistake right away, and we called the contractor, who was able to stop the crew and fix the mistake before any more time and materials were wasted.”

Gauger added that being able to document construction and check-in remotely improves accountability, particularly on adaptive reuse projects such as Electric Works, where multiple designers, contractors, and other stakeholders are involved. “We can check the cameras and see when crews are on-site and if work is being performed as scheduled — without having to be there in person,” he said.

Enhancing Partner Collaboration and Transparency

In addition to increasing accountability, TrueLook cameras have strengthened Gauger’s ability to collaborate effectively with partners and other stakeholders spread geographically across locations. “For the Electric Works project, we have partners that are from all different parts of the United States, so we use the TrueLook as a collaborative tool to keep a productive conversation going,” he said. “It helps reduce travel time and expenses, and enables the project to run more efficiently.” The cameras also help the team at Elevatus avoid travel for other projects that are not within driving distance of headquarters.

TrueLook’s remote live viewing along with its image markup and sharing features simplify and improve collaboration and help to keep everyone in the loop. “Occasionally, jobsite workers will inadvertently unplug or turn the cameras, and we’ll get a call from the owner letting us know a camera went down,” Gauger said. “That tells us that they’re actively using TrueLook to check on construction progress, and it underscores how important the cameras are for creating transparency and supporting collaboration throughout construction.”

Revitalization in progress at the Former GE Campus

Enabling Secure Role-Based Access for Stakeholders and the Public

TrueLook’s intuitive software enables Gauger to set permission controls for accessing the cameras, so they can share views, images, video, and time-lapses with the public, without worrying about disclosing any sensitive information. “For some projects, such as Electric Works, we allow the public to see everything whereas, on some of our more confidential projects in the Education and Justice sectors, we leverage permission controls to enable role-based access to the cameras,” he said.

Gauger added that the cameras provide an added sense of security, particularly on projects they have in the Justice sector. “On a few of our projects, our TrueLook camera is the lone camera on the jobsite,” he said. “It’s just great to have these devices there because it helps provide much-needed security for our staff and partners as well as the construction crews.”

Watching the Transformation in Real-Time

Dietz said that TrueLook’s ability to capture captivating time-lapses of the Electric Works renovation project has been invaluable as a way to satisfy documentation and transparency requirements as well as continue to inspire support and excitement within the community about the project. With TrueLook views embedded into the Electric Works page of his firm’s online portfolio, members of the media or the community can see photos and time-lapses at any time to watch the redevelopment as it’s taking place. “For years, the GE campus has been vacant, and people have wondered what would become of it,” Dietz said. “With a view into the project via TrueLook, they can watch it transform and get excited about how we’re breathing new life into the campus and creating a space for everyone to enjoy.”