Mayor Tom Henry: State of Fort Wayne is ‘as strong as it’s ever been’
Mayor Tom Henry’s 11th State of the City address Wednesday contained no new initiatives but offered plenty of evidence to support his theme of “Fort Wayne — On the Rise.”
“With this being Valentine’s Day, it seems to me to be a perfect time to share with you my love, passion and commitment for Fort Wayne,” Henry told the crowd at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. “We’re truly experiencing momentum and investments like never before, establishing ourselves as a destination city . . . We’ve become a city that believes in itself; one that constantly works to keep rising to its full potential.”
As proof, Henry offered a now-familiar litany of projects: the soon-to-begin renovation of the historic Columbia Street “Landing,” the $10 million Superior Lofts housing project, the adjacent $61 million Riverview housing, commercial and parking project, the completion this year of the Skyline residential tower, two new downtown hotels and others.
“All of these projects are part of the bigger picture we’re painting in Fort Wayne,” Henry’s prepared text stated, noting the cooperation of the Allen County Commissioners in getting some of the projects underway.
And the work is paying off, Henry said. Eight of the 47 conventions hosted by the Grand Wayne last year were new to Fort Wayne, contributing to the $600 million annual tourism economy. “And not only are our downtown investments thriving, but other businesses are succeeding as well,” he said, pointing to creation of 1,800 jobs in 2017 and private business investment of nearly $250 million.
In addition, he noted, the city has invested $100 million in neighborhood improvements since 2014 and plans $30 million more this year, with $4 million earmarked for sidewalks and $2 million for alleys.
“Just last month, Business Insider called Fort Wayne the best city in Indiana to live,” Henry told the crowd. “It appears we’ve also been recognized as the lowest cost of living city in the entire country as well as the most affordable big city when it comes to covering the cost of home ownership.” The Parks and Recreation Department completed 70 projects last year, he noted, and $40 million in storm water projects are underway to improve drainage.
Henry also touted the potential of future projects, such as the conversion of the former General Electric campus into the Electric Works mixed-use development and the potential development of the 30-acre “North River” site just north of downtown.
“Now is the time to seize the moment,” Henry concluded. “Our momentum has to continue. The window of opportunity won’t be open forever. I can tell you with confidence that the state of our city is as strong as it’s ever been. Fort Wayne is truly on the rise.”
Henry closed by citing a West Point cadet maxim: “Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible . . . The best is yet to come.”