Women Are: Directing the creation of innovation districts in Fort Wayne

By now, most Fort Wayne area residents have heard about the ambitious Electric Works project, which seeks to revitalize the abandoned 39-acre General Electric campus on the South Side of Fort Wayne.

The project’s website describes its vision as, “a well-conceptualized, mixed-use district of innovation, culture and community that is seamlessly integrated with other downtown development projects currently underway.”

Electric Works is the largest project Fort Wayne has considered in recent years.

Across the region, opinions about the project vary. Some see it as a real estate deal; some see it as a beacon of innovation; and others see it as a looming specter of gentrification.

Regardless of personal opinions, one thing is for sure: Electric Works has the potential to dramatically transform Fort Wayne in numerous ways.

The Electric Works campus is south of downtown Fort Wayne.

Crystal Vann Wallstrom is a Fort Wayne transplant and the Managing Director of Innovation for Electric Works. In this episode of the podcast Women Are: Fort Wayne, Host Stephanie Gottesman interviews Vann Wallstrom about some of the wisdom and inspiration she took away from her time in San Francisco, why she passionately believes that bringing an innovation center to Fort Wayne will drive economic development and build culture in new ways here, and how being part of this project has affected her personal journey.


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The Electric Works campus has been disconnected from its surrounding neighborhoods for years.

Vann Wallstrom shares about the history of the General Electric campus and how revitalizing the 18-building, 1.2 million sq. ft. space will provide jobs, affordable housing, and a hub for innovation for the growing northeast Indiana region.

In the course of the conversation, she and Gottesman discuss a talk by world-leading economic geographer Michael Storper, recorded by the London School of Economics and Political Science. It goes deep into the reasons that an open innovation district, like Electric Works, creates more innovative culture than closed models of innovation centers, and how this model has led to the rise of San Francisco over Los Angeles in the last half-century.

Vann Wallstrom then describes the vision for the Electric Works—both what will be part of the West Campus Phase 1 portion of the project and how she sees it building culture in the South Side area.

Plans for Phase 1 of Electric Works.

Learn more

For a look at the Electric Works vision and the inside of the existing buildings, check out this page on their website. For more information on Electric Works, visit www.fortwayneelectricworks.com.

Electric Works is also on Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram.

Shout out to Jodi Leamon 

After the interview, we were happy to share an announcement for Jodi Leamon, the Sustainability Coordinator for the Allen County Department of Environmental Management and an Input Fort Wayne sustainability blogger.

Leamon was the guest from our 10th episode last season. She and Lesley Sears have started a podcast called “A Material Girl Goes Green.” Lesley is the Founder of the first truly sustainable candle company, Farm Finds Candles, based in Fort Wayne. The podcast follows Lesley’s journey as she steps into an eco-friendly and low-waste lifestyle.

Jodi is co-hosting the show as Lesley’s sustainability expert, answering all the eco-related questions that come up along the way. The show discusses daily eco challenges, reviews environmentally friendly products, and looks at all the ways you can begin your own eco-friendly journey. It launched earlier this month, and we’ve been loving it! You can find A Material Girl Goes Green on most podcasting apps. Check it out!

Music in this episode

This week, we’re featuring a song by APQ, Alicia Pyle Quartet, which has a weekly jazz series at the Club Room at the Clyde Theatre on Wednesday nights from 8-10 p.m. The quartet, and Alicia’s small business, PyleStyle Events, has a dedication to keeping it local and fostering local talent. Pyle

Each week, they feature a different “local” musician and encourage people to book from our growing pool of local talent.

The song in this episode is called “Serendipity.”

You can also find APQ on all social media platforms.

About Women Are: Fort Wayne

Women Are: Fort Wayne is a production of Monstrous Regiment Media and distributed by WBOI in Fort Wayne. Our show is sponsored by the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne and Silverbirch Entertainment. This episode was written and produced by Stephanie Gottesman and Traci Henning-Kolberg. Our episodes are recorded at Silverbirch Studio, with an extra thank you to sound engineer Steve Tyler and assistant engineer, Harrison Tyler.

We appreciate you subscribing, rating and reviewing the show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also visit us at womenare.us, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can check out other content from WBOI on Facebook.

Until next time.... Thanks for listening.

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