The Lowell Project update
In the 2006 Brookings Institution Study “Confronting Concentrated Poverty in Fresno”, Alan Berube lists Fresno as number one in the nation on concentrated poverty, the degree to which its poor were clustered in high-poverty neighborhoods. The Lowell community, located in the Fresno County census tract 6, is one of the “extreme poverty neighborhoods” referred to in this study with 49.1 percent of the individuals in this community living below the poverty line of $15,219.00 for a family of three.(2000 U.S. Census) During the past 50 years, this community has been neglected, which has led to not only blight, but has also been a direct contributor to the poverty that has consumed this historic neighborhood. Other contributing factors are: an increase in immigrant population, economic changes, and growth patterns. As a result, the neighborhoods are broken and rundown...
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Expert Visits Fresno to Help Blighted Neighborhoods
An expert who's helped to turn around blighted neighborhoods across the country came to Fresno to offer his insights before a packed crowed.
Gus Newport is a community activist, well known for his role in turning around a bad neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. On Wednesday, he shared his stories of success with local leaders.
Three out of five old homes on one side of L Street in the Lowell neighborhood in downtown Fresno are boarded up or falling apart. The graffiti riddled area is one example of a struggling Fresno neighborhood...
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Lowell Neighborhood Association y Union de Familias
The Lowell town hall meeting dates and times are listed at the following site:
Fresno Urban Neighborhood Development Corporation (FUND Inc.)
A Lowell newsletter can be found at the City of Fresno's Downtown and Community Revitalization Department's site. This site also has more information on Lowell in the Community Revitalization section.
As Ellen mentioned in an earlier email, we are working to set up an end-of-year final get together in the coming weeks, but in the meantime I thought you might want to enjoy an update on what's happening in Lowell. It was great to see so many of you at the last neighborhood meeting, but for those of you who could not make it or those of you looking for materials to share with friends or students here's a few:
An updated overview of Revitalization Efforts that Elaine and her team put together, with several links relevant to Lowell, including maps etc.
A link to Hank Delcore's blog entry, "Designing for Participation," where he discusses the work he and his students undertook in helping to facilitate the Lowell meeting. Great stuff Hank!
Message from the Manager
Elaine Robles | Neighborhood Revitalization Manager
Well, it’s been 16 months since I was hired to be the Neighborhood Revitalization Manager within the Downtown and Community Revitalization Department. Some days it feels brand new and others, it seems as if I was born at City Hall!
I’ve recently begun to realize just how much change has come about in the relatively short time we’ve been at it. Please go to our website (www.fresnoez.com) to take a look at the accomplishments we’ve had in Lowell since our division was formed in January, 2009.
On January 28th, 2010, we obtained Council approval to enter into a contract with Moule & Polyzoides to do a Downtown Neighborhoods Community Plan. You can read about that below in “What is the Downtown Neighborhoods Community Plan”.
All in all it’s been an incredibly busy, fun-filled (work is fun, right?) year with so many accomplishments. Collaborating with the other City departments, outside agencies and especially folks within the community has been an amazing experience and it’s one I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Message from the Director
Craig Scharton | Director, Department of Downtown & Community Revitalization
Healthy downtown neighborhoods are standard in many San Joaquin Valley cities. Folks enjoy living in older homes and neighborhoods in Clovis, Visalia, Hanford, Merced, Modesto and Sacramento. In Fresno, we have experienced decline in our downtown neighborhoods, resulting in large areas of concentrated poverty. The goal of our neighborhood revitalization effort is to turn these neighborhoods into attractive, mixed-income neighborhoods with historic character next to a vital downtown core.
How can we change these neighborhoods, especially in this time of economic contraction?
First, the underlying, codes, zoning and planning rules must be changed. What we have today is the result of bad planning decisions that were made 50 years ago. Those decisions have never been corrected. The rules have allowed poorly built and poorly maintained apartments to dominate historically single-family neighborhoods. New rules will assure that every new home or building will add to the overall quality of the neighborhoods, putting them on a continued course of improvement.
Second, we must coordinate City Departments to maximize the limited resources that they have. Revitalization will require all City Departments to communicate with each other and to do their part in a concerted, sustained effort. When the owners of apartment buildings are required to maintain their properties, then landlords will stop renting to gangsters who attract police or who trash their yards and parking areas. If every City Department focuses some of their resources on one area, then we can begin see the multiplier effect work for us.
The neighbors have to prioritize their needs and communicate them to the people who can make changes. This is beginning to happen through the Downtown Neighborhoods Community Plan and the interactive design workshops that will be held the week of May 10th.
Finally, other partners who have resources to contribute can coordinate with the neighborhoods and with the City’s efforts. The City of Fresno and Fresno State have partnered to make the Lowell Neighborhood (bounded by Hwy 180, Blackstone, Divisadero) the place where our whole community learns to work together to revitalize our urban neighborhoods. When everyone learns what resources they have to offer and how to coordinate our efforts, we will be able to restore the southern half of Fresno for future generations.
WEDNESDAY, 17 MARCH 2010 10:08
Bank of the Sierra has awarded Fresno Urban Neighborhood Development, (FUND) Inc. a grant in the amount of $2,500 to help it continue restoring neighborhoods in Fresno that have been hit hard by the economic downturn.
The Sierra Grant will be used specifically for building materials necessary to help qualified families of the Lowell Neighborhood improve their living conditions, said a statement released by the bank today.
Forbes releases list of top 14 “Most Trouble” Real Estate Markets
Florida and Las Vegas top the list but Fresno listed at number 8. See link below for the full list in a slideshow format.http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/26/real-estate-advisor-personal-finance-housing-defaults_slide.html
Gus Newport visits Fresno to discuss Neighborhood Revitalization
The very first day in my Southern New Hampshire University Master’s program in Community Economic Development, we watched a film entitled, “Holding Ground” which was about the efforts of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston Massachusetts.
Sitting there watching that film I knew I had found my calling and I was on the path to being able to affect change within my own City. During our third semester in school we were once again given an assignment, which was to critique a paper written by Gus Newport, the former Executive Director of DSNI, and one of America’s leading experts on neighborhood revitalization. One page into the article, I decided I needed to Google this guy and find out what he’s doing ‘right now’. There was so much information on the internet and I felt absolutely giddy. On a whim, I reached out to him via email to ask questions about his work. To my astonishment, Mr. Newport responded within 30 minutes. We became fast friends and even met in New York City at the Harlem Children’s Zone Conference we both attended. It’s been my dream to have Gus come to Fresno to talk to us about the work he’s done over the past 40+ years.
On April 27th, my dream came true and Gus Newport came to Fresno for a two-day trip to assess our neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. His first meeting of the day was at my monthly Lowell Internal City Department Meeting. He also toured the neighborhoods, met with local community based organizations and met with the Mayor and City Manager and spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Fresno Street Saints and the City of Fresno.
Newport, most known for his work on the “Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative” in Massachusetts, spoke about one of the most successful neighborhood revitalization efforts in the U.S. Some organizations he has been involved with over the years include the Community Training and Assistance Center, working with the Leadership, Effectiveness, Action & Partnership initiative through the Long Island Community Foundation. Newport was Vice-President for programs of the Vanguard Public Foundation and consultant to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, in which he assisted these foundations in community planning, organizing and policy development to re-build New Orleans, post Katrina. He served as the mayor of Berkeley, Calif. from 1979-1986, and now lectures regularly on community and economic development and strategies.
At Wednesdays’ Luncheon, Newport recognized that Fresno, like many other cities, has made the same mistakes for over half a century in the areas of redevelopment, planning and building and blamed archaic policies for these failures. On Wednesday, his message to city leaders and community members at the Westside Church of God was simple; “You have to involve the residents if you want to make change. Newport said, “They are great assets. If you get an analysis of what they feel are assets or what isn't working and get them on board, then they can help you not make mistakes."
At our final meeting before Mr. Newport got back on the train to head back to his home in Oakland, Gus said, “I was greatly impressed with the working relationships between community persons and City officials, including the Mayor, City Manager, Downtown and Community Revitalization Department and especially with the responsibility taken on by other city department representatives. This kind of collaboration can and will produce magnificent change.”
WEDNESDAY, 05 AUGUST 2009 11:47
Mayor Ashley Swearengin and other government officials gathered Wednesday to highlight revitalization efforts in Fresno’s Lowell neighborhood.
The press conference was spurred by a visit from Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, who had been meeting with the mayor and other city officials to discuss Fresno’s efforts at making its neighborhoods sustainable and livable.
America’s Worst-Selling Housing Markets 2010
Home prices have dropped, and inventory and sale prices are up in these big cities.
Milwaukee, Wis., is home to Miller Brewing, one of the country’s biggest beer makers. That’s good news for home-sellers there: They probably need a drink more than ever. Milwaukee is the big city with the worst-selling housing market in America.
Last year in Milwaukee, unsold homes clogged the market-42% more at the end of 2009 than the same time the previous year. During the housing boom, developers built copious luxury condominiums to meet rising demand, often far from the city center. Now that the market has contracted, those gleaming but remote designer apartments are harder than ever to sell, affecting the larger housing market.
More cities on link…
Recap of our Fourth Lowell Community Meeting
On April 13th 2010, Mayor Ashley Swearengin, held her fourth Lowell Community meeting since taking office in January, 2009. With a whole three hours under his belt, new City Manager Mark Scott addressed the crowd of some 200 people and told them he was happy to be back home in Fresno. The community applauded Mr. Scott and then welcomed District 3 City Councilmember Cynthia Sterling, who has attended all four meetings. City of Fresno departments, including the Redevelopment Agency, went to Lowell Elementary School to meet with residents, businesses and other community stakeholders. Also in attendance were several community partners, such as Fresno State University, Fresno Pacific University, Building Healthy Communities, F.I.F.U.L., F.U.N.D., S.P.C.A., Every Neighborhood Partnership, and Central California Legal Services, among others.
Mayor Swearengin opened the meeting introducing both new City Manager Mark Scott and City Council Member Cynthia Sterling. Craig Scharton and Elaine Robles-McGraw then addressed the crowd to kick off the City of Fresno presentation in which Department Directors reported back the status of progress within the Lowell community since the last meeting. The Lowell Neighborhood Association and La Union de Familias also did a presentation to the Community asking for more Lowell residents to get involved with the two neighborhood-based groups.
To close out the meeting Fresno State Professor Hank Delcore brought in his Anthropology students, who facilitated breaking the room into eight (8) groups and residents were asked to answer three (3) questions:
1.How have things improved?
2.What remains to be done?
3.What can you do?
For more information on the roundtable results please go to www.fresnoez,com or contact Elaine Robles at 621-8360.