FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry delivered the annual State of the City address Wednesday at noon from the Grand Wayne Center.
Here are speech highlights as presented by the City of Fort Wayne:
Mayor Henry’s top priority is to continue to ensure the needs of the residents and businesses of Fort Wayne are being met. The City Administration’s focus will be on public safety, neighborhood infrastructure improvements, parks, economic development opportunities, and quality of life amenities.
Violent crime was down for the second straight year and homicides decreased by 45 percent, with a clearance rate of 83 percent. The Fort Wayne Police Department will have a recruit class in 2023 to bring staffing levels up to 500 officers. In addition, the drone as first responder program will move from the testing phase to operational and a new river patrol will begin patrolling the rivers seasonally.
The Fort Wayne Fire Department will have a recruit class in 2023 with a goal of having 370 firefighters on staff by the end of the year. The department will complete construction of a new Fire Station 14 at the corner of East State Boulevard and Reed Road. Also, the department plans to purchase two engines to replace Engine 12 and Engine 18.
Public Works neighborhood investments:
The City plans to invest a record $48.3 million in neighborhood infrastructure enhancements in 2023. Work will include improvements to streets, roads, sidewalks, alleys, curbs, bridges, streetlights, and trails. Since 2014, more than $250 million of work has occurred in neighborhoods throughout Fort Wayne.
City Utilities neighborhood investments:
Plans call for $135 million to be invested in neighborhood water, sewer, and stormwater improvements. Glenwood Park, Wildwood Park, East Central, West Central, Westmoor, and McKinnie Avenue are some of the highlighted areas where work will take place this year.
There will be $3 million in improvements in parks, including various planning and construction work at Bucker, Franklin, and Shoaff parks, just to name a few. In addition, work is scheduled to begin on the Franke Park Renaissance, the first phase of a master plan to restore and renovate Fort Wayne’s largest park.
Job growth/retention and private investment:
In Fort Wayne in 2022, there were 1,330 new jobs created, 2,689 jobs retained, and a total private investment of $585 million.
Continued downtown revitalization:
The parking garage is open on the nearly $90 million Riverfront at Promenade Park project. Also, several residents have moved into the living spaces there. Office space completion is scheduled for March.
Additional riverfront development public spaces efforts in the Promenade Park and surrounding areas will continue this year.
Construction on The Lofts at Headwaters Park that will feature apartments/townhomes, a parking garage, and office/retail space is set to start this year.
The Ashberry development, corporate headquarters for STAR Financial Bank, will open in the 4th quarter of this year. The $43 million, seven-story mixed-use project along Main Street will also feature commercial and retail space and public parking.
The Pearl is another mixed-use development. The plans for the nearly $50 million investment include commercial and event space as well as housing. Expected completion date is the 4th quarter of 2024.
In the past year, Fort Wayne has been named the 3rd best run city in the country by WalletHub; the most affordable city in the country by Niche; the best place to live in Indiana and 48th best place to live in the country from U.S. News & World Report’s Best Places to Live rankings; 4th best minor league sports city by Livability; and 8th best city in the country for new college graduates to start a career by Insurify.
“I’ve never been more optimistic than I am right now about Fort Wayne’s future. The state of our city is strong, and we’re just getting started,” said Mayor Henry. “We must continue to show leadership and be bold to position our community for current and future success. Fort Wayne is a city like no other, and I’m looking forward to an outstanding year.”
Another topic Henry briefly touched on in his speech was childcare.
He and his staff are part of a coalition focused on putting Fort Wayne at the forefront of a progressive childcare system that would meet the needs of citizens and employers.
The mayor told WANE 15 after he delivered his formal remarks that childcare is often too expensive, or totally unavailable. He said it’s something that undoubtedly needs addressed.
“So often, employees call in sick because they have a child who, perhaps, is ill or something else has come up that’s child-related,” Henry said. “If we can address some of that by putting together a real progressive system with childcare, again, that can not only serve us well, but we can, perhaps, be a trend setter for others.”
Henry said the coalition is in its very early stages and there’s much work to do, but they do have several agencies and groups interested in being involed.
He added that the coalition will need to put together a business plan and also look at lobbying for financial backing from the state and the private sector.