The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 09, 2019 1:00 am

City on the move, open for business

Tom Henry

This is an open letter to local and national developers, current and potential investors, and future residents of the city of Fort Wayne:

As the mayor of Fort Wayne, I continue to be encouraged by the momentum and excitement we're currently experiencing in our city. I see it every day in our neighborhoods, downtown, through large and small business investments, and by people of all walks of life working to make a meaningful difference.

Come and be part of what we have to offer. As a point-of-destination city, we're attracting unique and innovative economic development opportunities. An example is the Electric Works initiative, a project where the city has been and continues to be an engaged and committed partner.

Under my leadership and in collaboration with local elected officials (City Council and the Allen County Commissioners) and governing bodies (Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board and Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission), $65 million in public funds have been secured to help Electric Works get started.

My administration and I have lobbied successfully to help fund Electric Works at the federal, state and local levels of government; we've accommodated the needs of the development team; and we continue to work tirelessly to help make Electric Works a reality. For instance, recently, as a demonstration of good faith, local governing bodies worked with the development team to grant the developers an extension to allow more time as they seek the needed private funding for the project.

Unquestionably, the public governing bodies are investing the time, energy and resources it takes to move this worthwhile and complex public-private partnership forward.

We're anxiously awaiting as the developers try to secure their private financing, find an anchor tenant and get leasing commitments from prospective tenants. We recognize that certain agreed-upon deadlines are quickly approaching that will likely determine the future of Electric Works. Between now and then, we'll continue to be fair, sincere and patient as the developers do their part to meet their commitments.

Rest assured, our community is doing everything possible to help Electric Works succeed while at the same time being thoughtful stewards of taxpayer dollars. As mayor, it's my responsibility to ensure our entire city is positioned for current and future opportunities through sound fiscal management and proactive strategies. We must continue to revitalize downtown, grow and protect our neighborhoods, and facilitate current and future public-private partnerships.

Now, more than ever before, Fort Wayne is primed for unparalleled growth and success. It's certainly visible throughout our community.

For example, Promenade Park will open in August as part of Phase I of Riverfont Fort Wayne. And, work is already under way on the planning and design of Phases II and III of this initiative that will result in additional public spaces and private development projects. Nearby, The Landing will also open later this year with several mixed-use offerings in a unique setting. Superior Lofts has opened along our riverfront with 72 apartments as an adaptive re-use of a 1905 building.

There's also unlimited potential at North River. With control of the property, we're certainly positioned for future private development. In addition, we're in the process of selecting a new developer for the prime riverfront property located at the northeast corner of Harrison and Superior streets to include retail, housing and parking. We'd like to begin construction there in 2020. Later this year, we'll be expanding the Civic Center Garage to meet parking demands downtown, and a new mixed-use development in the Club Soda parking lot area is closer to becoming a reality as we work to get a development agreement to start construction in late 2019 or early 2020.

Our tourism and convention business has also grown to the point that we now have two new downtown hotels under construction. The Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Wayne Downtown led by White Lodging will open in July next to Parkview Field and across from the Grand Wayne Center. At Main and Harrison streets, we recently broke ground on a boutique hotel in partnership with Provenance Hotels and Barbara Baekgaard. It's scheduled to open in late 2020.

We recognize, too, however that neighborhoods are just as important as our downtown. This year alone, more than $100 million is being invested in neighborhood infrastructure projects such as streets, roads, sidewalks, alleys and curbs, as well as water, sewer and stormwater upgrades. Neighborhoods are the backbone of Fort Wayne and must be a top priority.

Infrastructure enhancements are important to residents and businesses alike. It's a vital quality-of-life amenity.

Incidentally, our growing trail network, award-winning parks, proactive public safety outreach by our police and fire departments, and a renewed commitment to the arts are also helping Fort Wayne become a national leader in retaining and attracting companies, individuals and families.

I can't remember a time when there's been this much hope and optimism in Fort Wayne. The momentum is real. Together, we are better. Through collaborative partnerships with other government entities and the private sector, we're moving forward in a positive direction.

We invite everyone to take a look at Fort Wayne. Our community is open and uniquely poised to be a nationally recognized hub for engagement, innovation and performance.

Tom Henry, a Democrat, is the mayor of Fort Wayne.

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