Mayor Tom Henry didn’t just say the state of the city is strong at his annual State of the City address Feb. 12. He said the state of the city is as strong as it’s ever been.
His list of the city’s many accomplishments over the past year gave credence to his statement.
Henry ticked off several achievements, starting with the new Promenade Park, the first phase of riverfront development. “Our newest park is welcoming and accessible to people of all abilities,” he said in a statement. “And it has certainly made our three rivers into a regional destination for recreation, arts and cultural activities.”
The mayor also noted two new major downtown projects by developers Barrett and Stokely, both of which will include parking garages, residential, retail and office space. Riverfront at Promenade Park will be just east of the new park, and the Lofts at Headwaters Park will be built on a parking lot just south of Headwaters Park the pavilion.
The city’s strong economy was also mentioned in Henry’s speech. He said in 2019 Fort Wayne saw 650 jobs created, $28 million in new payroll and a total private investment of $61 million.
After touting the major successes of downtown, Henry spoke of neighborhood improvements. “As the heart of our city continues to be revitalized, we must also invest in the economic and social viability of the backbone of our community, our neighborhoods,” he said.
The southeast Fort Wayne strategy plan will be updated to focus on three districts for reinvestments: the old Southtown Mall area, the McKinnie Street and Anthony Boulevard area, and the Pontiac Street and Weisser Park area.
He also said he’s optimistic the Electric Works project will become a reality.
Speaking of essential services, “public safety is at the top of the list,” Henry said. “We’re not without our challenges, but we’re addressing issues head-on and will continue to implement best practices with a full complement of 480 officers.”
He noted the city is adding firefighters each year in response to an increasing number of calls for service.
Infrastructure improvements continue, with $33 million worth of enhancements planned for every quadrant of the city.
Mamajo, the tunnel boring machine digging the deep rock sewage tunnel, will continue her progress this year. When finished, the tunnel will be able to divert 1 billion gallons of combined sewage that would have gone into the rivers. “That’s an accomplishment we all can be proud of,” he said.
Speaking of public parks, he said the city has committed $3 million for several improvements, including Foster Park Pavilion No. 3; a conservatory sculpture installation, riverfront programming and the partner officer program.
Looking ahead, Henry reiterated some of his goals that he has mentioned before: becoming a more diverse and healthier community.
He will continue to support further development of the trails.
Henry also wants the city to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, so they will look at solar energy options on all government-owned buildings.
More investment in the arts community also is a priority. He supports the Art Commission’s work on a public art master plan and also supports construction of an arts campus downtown.
With all that has been done, Henry stressed “now is not the time to stop. We have much more to accomplish.”