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GSA, EPA reaffirm commitment to City of Fresno

By David Leites, Office of the Regional Chief Architect

Ajo housing development

As part of GSA’s Urban Development and Good Neighbor Program, Region 9 associates recently held a Planning Outreach and Partnership (POP) meeting with local officials in Fresno, Calif. to identify opportunities where GSA’s real estate actions can be leveraged to help achieve community goals.

The meeting was an opportunity to circle back with the city on the GSA/EPA collaboration on providing technical planning assistance to the city through the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative in 2012. The program was designed to help cities that were particularly affected by the 2009 recession by finding ways to improve city planning and urban design quality with the help of national experts in these fields. Although the SC2 program has concluded, it laid a successful foundation for EPA’s current technical assistance programs, in which GSA participates at the national level through the Urban Development program.

The city explained how these recent planning efforts are supporting downtown urban renewal. Plans include better transit options and the development of a pedestrian- and bike-friendly downtown designed to be the backdrop for restaurants, bars, public events, and other entertainment options characteristic of a lively urban center. Other agenda topics included a discussion of how the city is planning for California High-Speed Rail, whose first station will be built in downtown Fresno. The city partnered with the High Speed Rail Authority to develop a station area plan that involves connecting the rail system to a new Bus Rapid Transit system, which will enable better access to commercial real estate in the downtown area.

GSA’s largest single customer in Fresno, and one of the largest employers in the city, IRS, attended the meeting.

“I am excited by the process and by the information shared here and am glad that GSA is doing this,” said Armando Sanchez, IRS Territory Manager for Facilities.

One of the key follow-up activities has been connecting IRS operations with city planners and the Downtown Fresno Partnership to keep IRS employees informed about and engaged in downtown entertainment and transportation information.

“The government employee demographic is very important to our economic development plans,” said Deputy City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter.

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