The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 30, 2018 1:00 am

Mayor: Prep for more roadwork

Says sorry for another orange barrel summer


On a snowy, wintry day, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on Monday apologized to members of the city's Rotary Club in advance for their likely discontent this summer.

This year, the city plans to spend $30 million on street, alley and sidewalk repairs, he said. The state is spending at least that much on local roadwork, and big building projects downtown also are likely to result in road detours and closures.

So those mazes of orange construction cones that drivers had to navigate last summer?

“It's going to happen again,” Henry said. “I'm sorry. I'm very sorry.”

Henry made the remarks during the January luncheon of Rotary at Parkview Field. The club for several years has invited the city's sitting mayor to speak during its first monthly meeting of the year, and the speech traditionally previews the mayor's more formal State of the City address.

That speech will take place at noon Feb. 14 at Grand Wayne Center.

Monday, Henry, a Democrat, said the upcoming inconveniences to drivers will mean long-term improvements to the city's image as several big development projects come to fruition in upcoming months. 

And, fresh from one of the city's most unusual mayoral assignments – helping pull the former Cambray & Associates building across Harrison Street by ropes to make way for riverfront development – Henry enumerated several projects soon to show visible signs of progress.

The riverfront, where construction will resume this spring, is just one, he said.

Both the Hampton Inn & Suites on West Jefferson Boulevard across from Grand Wayne and the boutique-style Provenance Hotels property planned for Harrison and Main streets are due to break ground this spring, Henry said. 

So is the more recently announced residential project known as The Landing on Columbia Street, he said.

Henry added that progress also is expected on the $62 million Continental Property Group's mixed-use residential project with a city-contributed parking garage just east of the riverfront's Promenade Park and the Electric Works renovation of the former General Electric campus on Broadway south of downtown.

That project, under the auspices of Greater Fort Wayne, is seeking anchor tenants for spaces of about 100,000 square feet, Henry said.

But, he noted, some of those projects will likely cause some headaches for drivers. 

In a brief interview after the event, Henry said at least some lanes on Jefferson may need to be closed for hotel construction. But it's important for Fort Wayne to have a vibrant downtown and attractive corridors to get there.

In that context, he mentioned the Coldwater Road and North Clinton Street roadwork projects as examples of corridor-improving designs.

“Now, I've had calls from some of you who tried to make a left-hand turn and got stuck on the median (on Coldwater Road). But you'll get used to it,” he said to laughter from those who remembered photos of such mishaps that made the social media rounds last summer.

Then, turning serious, the mayor said people need to see something attractive as they come into a city for it to make a good first impression.

“I think you'll see an improvement (on Clinton and Coldwater) as the trees grow and the grass grows and the flowers start blooming,” Henry said.

“You'll see it gets better.”

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