Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry presented his annual State of the City address to a packed room at the Grand Wayne Center Wednesday afternoon.
In his first major address since earning an unprecedented fourth term as the city’s Democratic mayor, Henry used it as an opportunity to highlight Fort Wayne’s success in development and infrastructure. He highlighted the newly-opened Promenade Park on the riverfront and the commitment from Ruoff Mortgage to develop its new headquarters across from Parkview Field downtown.
Henry also re-emphasized his commitment to Electric Works; an anchor tenant for the $248 million first phase of the project will be announced Thursday.
Since earning re-election, Henry has shown an interest in areas that “mayors don’t normally focus on,” as he told WBOI’s Zach Bernard in December. These areas were primarily overall community wellness and exploring more use of renewable energy.
Henry says he will be convening with local health leaders to determine the best ways to combat ongoing health problems like smoking, Type 2 diabetes, the opioid crisis and more. He also continued his emphasis on expanding the region’s trail system as one method for helping the community become more active.
While he expressed enthusiasm for current plans to add 16 miles to the 120-mile system by 2023, Henry is setting his sights on a much larger goal.
“My ultimate vision is to see the completion of the 81-mile Poka-Bache trail connection from Pokagon State Park to Angola, to Wabash State Park in Bluffton,” Henry said.
“It will take more than a decade to complete, but we’ll be able to use and enjoy each segment while we anticipate the final, spectacular trail.”
When it comes to alternative energy, Henry emphasized solar as “non-polluting, renewable and efficient.” He also highlighted the city’s current resource recovery program, at its water pollution control plant.
“We’re converting organic waste to methane to power our buildings and have seen substantial savings of nearly $2 million over the past few years,” he said. “We have the technology and knowledge to do more with renewable energy and save money for taxpayers, and we will.”
He also used the speech to touch on areas that were major points of debate during his re-election campaign against Republican Tim Smith last fall.
Notably, Henry outlined three pillars for the city’s new Southeast Strategy.
“The first is Southtown, where we will work to grow residential and employment density. Second is the area of McKinney and Anthony, to create an active neighborhood center. And the third will be the Pontiac and Weisser Park area, to improve that corridor for walkability and create a hub of retail activity,” he said.
Finally, Henry highlighted the need to support Fort Wayne’s arts scene, complimenting the work of the Public Art Commission on the city’s master plan while addressing the need for an expanded arts campus downtown.
“It has the potential to be a true magnet for Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana,” he said.
Henry concluded by re-emphasizing his campaign talking point about Fort Wayne being more bold, saying now is the time to make the city “more than anyone thinks is possible.”