Construction begins on Pontiac Street Market

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 11:16 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Thursday afternoon, Mayor Tom Henry led a celebration ceremony marking the beginning of construction on the Pontiac Street Market.

“This is something that we realized we needed to address as a community,” Mayor Tom Henry said.

For Mayor Henry, what needed addressing was the food desert issue on Fort Wayne’s southeast side.

The Pontiac Street Market is intended to be part of the solution.

“Food is a basic element, a basic need that all of us experience and if we can step up as a city and say, ‘this is one area of need that we as a community can address’, I think that solves a lot of concerns, a lot of problems, in our community,” Henry said.

The store will bring healthy, affordable food options to the southeast side, including fresh produce, meats, dairy, baked goods and other groceries.

Even though there was excitement at Thursday’s ceremony, not everyone was happy.

“We’re not opposed to the grocery store,” Ty Simmons said. “We’re opposed to the diversity equity inclusion plan that they have.”

Simmons lives on the southeast side. He says the project lacks diversity in its construction and oversight. Simmons claims the store will bring millions of dollars to the city and city officials, while only returning a small amount to the community.

“What you have is a large corporation and city entities that are going to come in, they’re going to give us food access,” Simmons said. “But, what they’re really after is the millions of dollars in grants, donations and corporate sponsorship.”

City officials say that’s not the case. They add the project will likely be a financial loss for the city for the first several years. But it’s a loss they’re willing to take to provide accessible groceries.

“Several people think that this is a money-making operation, when in fact, the business plan that we put together, unfortunately calls for a financial loss for several years,” Henry said.

Mayor Henry adds, even though they expect a financial loss, they will be able to keep the market open through that time. City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker says the goal is for the market to be open in September.

As for Simmons, he says he welcomes an open and honest dialog about what the next steps should be for Fort Wayne’s south side.