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Last updated: Thu. Jun. 19, 2014 - 12:51 am EDT

Old GE sign could get to stay in city

Company ‘open to suggestions’ for saving skyline’s historic icon

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FORT WAYNE — Removal of a Fort Wayne landmark is not set in stone.

General Electric Co. spokesman Matt Conkrite on Wednesday said although officials at the company’s Louisville, Kentucky, plant asked about relocating the iconic GE sign that sits just southwest of downtown, discussions about it have been far from heated.

“They expressed an interest, but that’s about it,” Conkrite said. “I can’t say more than that. At this point, there is nothing to say.”

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

Snatching the sign from a building that has been part of Fort Wayne’s skyline for decades is a bit like rubbing salt in a wound, said Alfred Robbs, who lives in the neighborhood near Broadway that the GE campus has called home since the company bought the former Jenny Electric Light Co. in 1911.

“That sign is a landmark,” the 57-year-old maintenance man said. “I mean, man, they should be able to do something with it, like put part of it in a museum.”

Gary Klouse agrees. The 48-year-old lives beneath the sign. Klouse can see the familiar GE logo glow at night from the doorstep of his home on Lavina Street.

“The city ought to be able to save it,” Klouse said.

ARCH Inc., a nonprofit historical and preservation organization, announced in May that it put the GE campus on its endangered list. Aside from that, there’s not much else that can be done, said Michael Galbraith, the group’s executive director.

“It’s their sign, so they can really do whatever they want with it,” he said. “I would prefer to see it stay in Fort Wayne, but to see it reused somewhere else is at least an alternative.”

City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, isn’t going to let the sign slip away that easily. On Wednesday, he talked with a city planner about what steps could be taken to preserve the landmark.

“I’ve heard from constituents, and they don’t want to see it go,” Paddock said. “We’ll be exploring what can be done because it is something that means a lot to people.”

GE is open to suggestions, Conkrite said.

“We’ve said that from the beginning,” he said, adding that there are no plans to demolish the building, which spans 1 million square feet.

“If there are ideas out there, we’re open to hearing them. We know there is a historical significance there.”

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