5 min read

10 things to watch at Electric Works in 2024

10 things to watch at Electric Works in 2024
Students from Amp Lab visit Building 19, known as The Forum at Electric Works.

It’s a new year, and Electric Works is entering its second (full) year of being open to the public. A few weeks ago, it posted on Instagram that campus saw 754,000 visitors in 2023. So what does 2024 have in store? Senior Experience Director at Electric Works, Katy Silliman, gives us a few insights.

Here are 10 quick things to watch:

  1. Campus activation: In mid-January, Electric Works property management changed hands from Carr Workplaces (still managing coworking) to Colliers (which manages the Stutz in Indy). As Silliman’s team seeks to bring more retail to campus along Dynamo Alley and throughout campus, they’re looking to host pop-ups to activate empty storefronts in the meantime. “The Stutz is a model for us with its historic renovation and creative activation while they were leasing their space up,” Silliman says. “We’re eager to learn from them.”
  2. Expanding on Chapman’s success: As the anchor dining tenant, Chapman’s is bringing more regulars to campus. (We recently went for dessert and loved their Enlighten beer and Cast Iron Skillet Cookie with caramel drizzle.) They’re supporting local artists and entrepreneurs, too, like hosting a shelf of books from Piebald Shark Books and selling lots of local art off the walls. Owner Scott Fergusson tells us his allwalls.art project sold more than $4,000 worth of local art before Chapman’s even opened to the public (all from soft openings). Check out more live events, like music, in the space, as well.
  3. Growing coworking: Carr Workplaces still runs a basement coworking center at Electric Works in the Forum, and Silliman says this space is crucial to the campus vision of supporting businesses of all sizes, from startups to corporations, like Do It Best. Membership plans for unreserved seats in the Carr cafe start at $45/day. You can also rent private offices by the day or hour and meeting rooms. So far, Carr’s coworking is 55 percent occupied in private office space, and 48 additional companies utilize other coworking membership options, Silliman says. Expanding awareness of coworking on campus and its benefits are goals for 2024. “There are some pretty cool perks, like a fully staffed cafe, admin support and a print center," Silliman says.
  4. Leasing offices on campus: This year, SDI is moving its New Millennium (R&D arm) into the Forum at Electric Works. Several other exciting announcements are on leasing are forthcoming, too, but it’s too early to share details, Silliman says. In the meantime: campus offers 10 large “work-ready suites” on the fourth floor of the Forum, ideal for companies with 10-20 employees – maybe those who “graduate from coworking” or are seeking more modern, flux office space for their teams post-pandemic. This year, Silliman’s team will be working with local design firms to stage these spaces for leasing, and some of them are already claimed (TBA).
  5. Adding apartments: If you see construction around the Union Street parking garage, that’s part of a mixed-use development underway called the Elex, which will contain the first apartments on campus. The Elex includes ground-floor commercial space, encompassing the garage. Last June, we reported that it will have nearly 300 apartment units (one, two and three-bedrooms), which will “wrap” around the West and North sides of the garage up five stories (available at a range of market-rate price points). The former plan also called for age-restricted affordable apartments in an adjacent building along Broadway. But Silliman says plans are shifting (somewhat) and an official announcement will be out later this year, which could expand affordable living on campus. Stay tuned for details.
  6. Educational opportunities: Amp Lab for FWCS 11th and 12th graders is expanding this fall to accept students from all schools in those grades, thanks to its success so far. Amp Lab opened in 2022 to help students gain workplace skills by working with businesses, organizations and agencies to solve real problems. “Students then take what they learn to launch ventures for businesses and nonprofits in the Fort Wayne community,” WANE 15 reports. This spring, Amp Lab is doing a reverse job fair for students in April where they will set up booths to market their skill sets to potential employers for jobs or internships. Campus-wide, Electric Works is eyeing partnerships with more local colleges and universities this year, too, Silliman says.
  7. Growing Union Street Market as a food hub: The Electric Works Public Market Trust received a $24,150 national grant last fall, which will support a plan (underway) to “tap the enormous potential of Union Street Market as a centrally located, seven-day-a-week hub of food access and nutrition education.” Learn more about the Trust and their grant, and contact them with ideas at trust@unionstreetmarket.org. Silliman says her team is also looking for ways to build on the success of weekly Saturday Ft. Wayne Farmer’s Markets in Dynamo Alley each summer, which also grows the market’s role as a food hub. More vendor announcements are forthcoming, too.
  8. Expanding programming: Silliman’s team tested lots of programming last year and feels they have a better idea of what works (and what doesn’t) going into 2024. “We did a lot of pop-up markets last year, like Shop Local Sundays, and vintage markets, so we’re looking at continuing and expanding those,” she says. Another big hit? Holiday events, like Trunk-or-Treat in Dynamo Alley. “We had over 3,500 people attend, and the weather was not great, so we’re excited about that event’s future.” She says the campus has done well for daytime events and is looking to expand nightlife, as well as entertainment for kids. Another popular event so far is the Philharmonic’s Sounds of Innovation concerts in the old GE Club gym, where attendees can upgrade tickets for bento box food samples from Union Street Market. (The second series kicks off this fall.)
  9. Supporting organic growth: Some of the best uses of Electric Works so far are those that happen naturally and aren’t large events, Silliman says. “We’ve seen the Market and the Forum be utilized by groups for their own small meetings and events, which is what we want to see. We want people to feel like this is their living room. There are so few places you can go for free and just hang out, and campus is one of them.”
  10. Logistics and connectivity: Not flashy, but something critical this year is improving wayfinding and access to parking, biking and walking on campus. “We’ve heard from every aspect of the community that it’s hard to know where you’re going on campus,” Silliman says. Her team is addressing that, as well as connectivity by bicycle, bus and foot between campus, Downtown and neighborhoods. “We want to get a bus stop back and get a bike trail back, but it is difficult,” she says. “The community spent decades trying to get people, cars and bikes around campus as fast as possible because it was closing, so it’s hard now to turn that around and get infrastructure back.” Electric Works is coordinating with the city, which received funding from a Safe Roads grant to bring a roundabout to the Broadway/Taylor intersection. It’s also looking to partner with Downtown and forthcoming ventures, like The Fairfield, to increase connectivity and activation along Broadway.

What does Electric Works need?

A few ideas Silliman and her team have heard so far include…

  • Social darts: “We’ve heard it's popular in other cities,” Silliman says.
  • A climbing gym: “There’s not a formal one in the pipeline anymore, but we’re open to it,” Silliman says. (Summit City Climbing Co. is building a gym elsewhere.)
  • Stuff for kids: “We’re experimenting with options on a pop-up basis this year,” Silliman says.