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How TrueLook Provides a Bird’s Eye View of the Revitalization of the Former GE Campus at Electric Works: A Q&A with Elevatus Architecture

For the people of Fort Wayne, Indiana, the old General Electric (GE) campus located in the heart of the city represents the city’s past, present and future. With its origins tracing back to the late 19th century, GE acquired the site around the turn of the century and employed about 40% of the city’s workforce by the late 1940s. It served as a critical manufacturing facility during World War II, and generations of families relied on the jobs created there. GE exited the campus in 2014 but still owned the facility. The community and region faced the decision of what to do with the sprawling campus. The process of renovation and revitalization of the site would be immense and requiree the buy-in of many stakeholders.

Electric Works

In January 2021, the City of Fort Wayne and RTM Ventures embarked on a massive renovation of the campus, enlisting Elevatus Architecture to lead the architectural effort. The goal is to create a mixed-use district of culture and community, transforming the 1.2-million square foot campus into a center for innovation, education, residential living, commercial business and hospitality, called Electric Works.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Cory Dietz, Partner and Business Development Director, and Brett Gauger, Marketing Communications Specialist at Elevatus about the Electric Works project. They shared insights about how they’re leveraging TrueLook construction cameras to streamline project management and collaboration throughout construction, capture visual documentation of the redevelopment from start to finish, and provide the community with a window into the campus’s transformation. 

Q. What’s the significance of the Electric Works project to the Fort Wayne community?

Dietz: People in the Fort Wayne community are emotionally invested in the redevelopment, because the campus has been part of their family history for generations. When it’s finished, it will be a destination for everyone — whether you’re retired, just starting to school, or looking for a job at a corporate office or retail space. There will be indoor and outdoor activities, so people can come year-round. For years this campus was vacant, and people have wondered what it could become. With this renovation, we’re making history. The positivity and community support behind this renovation project has been immense. 

Q. How are you keeping the community engaged and updated on the project? 

Gauger: The Electric Works campus is enormous, and only authorized personnel are allowed on the jobsite currently. TrueLook cameras help us provide transparency for the community, so they can watch the renovation and revitalization unfold. With TrueLook, anyone can go into our portfolio at any time, and see the time-lapses, live camera views and 360-degree panoramas of the project, which helps to keep the community engaged and excited about the eventual opening. Additionally, when the project began, the construction manager emphasized to the media that there would be documentation of the entire project via time-lapses. TrueLook enables us to hold true to that promise.

Q. How important are the TrueLook cameras for this renovation project?

Gauger: They’re 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 surrounding community, so they can be a part of it. TrueLook also enables all stakeholders to view the project remotely, and the cameras provide a sense of security for the crews. Additionally, some of our partners and other stakeholders aren’t located here in Fort Wayne, and with TrueLook, they’re able to login and see what’s happening remotely. It saves money and time on travel and helps keep everyone updated about construction.  

Q. Are there other benefits of having TrueLook cameras on the Electric Works project?

Gauger: There’s no such thing as a perfect project. A simple mistake can be observed on camera, and we can fix it before it causes delays or extra costs. The cameras improve collaboration with county commissioners, construction managers, contractors and subcontractors, helping to accelerate problem-solving and decision-making, so we can keep costs down and stay on schedule.

Q. Did you face any challenges when installing the cameras?

Gauger: Placement was a challenge, given the limited access to power sources on campus.  TrueLook’s solar packages and flexible mounting options enabled us to place the cameras in the best-possible locations without worrying about having a power source. One camera is located on the southwest side of campus, pointing northeast. It picks up the three main buildings of the campus. Another camera mounted on the East Campus points down Dynamo Alley, the main artery of the campus, which will be a walkable streetscape and the primary entrance for visitors. A third camera is mounted on a rooftop and provides a birds-eye view, giving viewers a more immersive feeling of being on campus. These views provide maximum coverage, both to our team and all the project stakeholders, as well as the public via our website.

Q. Is there a time when TrueLook cameras were particularly helpful during construction?

Dietz: Yes, many. For example, one time our technical specifications writer was checking the cameras and spotted a mistake. He noticed workers were installing exterior sheathing on a building that was a different color than what was being used on the rest of the building. He 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. If he hadn’t seen it on the cameras, it could have caused a major delay.

Q. What’s happening during the next phase of the project?

Dietz: Part of phase two is the construction of a big parking garage with a residential ramp, located north of the campus. There are railroad tracks that run on the north side of it. GE employees used to park on a greasy lot across the railroad tracks and access the campus through a tunnel. We’re renovating the tunnel, which has been closed off and filled in for years, to provide connectivity to the other side of the tracks. Then, we’ll work on the east side of the campus, which is geared toward hospitality and residential space. Throughout the entire renovation project, TrueLook cameras will be there, monitoring and documenting construction, and keeping the community engaged and informed.

 To learn more about how Elevatus is using TrueLook at Electric Works to increase jobsite visibility and collaboration and foster community engagement read the full case study.