Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fresno's New Focus on Downtown & Revitilization

Congrats to Craig Scharton, Travis Sherdian & Elliott Balch as they began a new adventure at the City's newly formed Downtown & Community Revitalization Department. At the press conference held yesterday in downtown Fresno, Mayor-elect Swearengin announced that this new team will replace the Economic Development department.

Craig spoke to the team’s focus on great design & planning, increasing foot traffic and business districts in downtown, locally-owned businesses and community-led design in the surrounding neighborhoods (Lowell, Jefferson & West Fresno). These are all strategies mentioned in the Creative Economic Council Report that Craig along with others in Creative Fresno helped produce.

Ashley has assembled a great team with the passion and capacity to foster change in our city. Craig has been a man on a mission to revitilize downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods since being on the Fresno City Council in the 1990s. Since 2006, Craig has served as the CEO of the Central Valley Business Incubator and the Claude Laval WET Incubator that provides technical assistance for locally-owned businesses. Craig has also served as the executive director for Main Street Hanford and the Pleasanton Downtown Association, both organizations with the goal of developing and promoting the downtown community (more on Craig and the Incubator). Elliott is the current district director for Assemblymember Juan Arambula (D-31) and Chair of the Fresno Downtown Association. He spreadheaded the Association's successful Fulton Plaza Thursdays that brought thousands to the Fulton Mall for the local music & food festival. Travis is currently at the Central Valley Business Incubator with Craig as the Member Service Director and previous managed Public Relations at Astone. He is currentl the chair of Creative Fresno. But what have they gotten themselves into?

Downtown has many challenges. Fulton Mall foot traffic sometimes is one (depends on when you go). Others included finding the balance of viable businesses that respects the commitment current vendors have made while fostering an environment that encourages new enterprise into downtown.

There is a desperate need to integrate the surrounding neighborhoods into the plans for downtown as they impact the perspective and vitality of Fresno.

The Super Six?

The department will needed all the help they can get. Craig will be joined by Wilma Quan, Elaine Robles-McGraw and Elizabeth Johanson who will focus on redevelopment, neighborhood revitalization and multicultural marketing & enterprise. Elliott and Travis will focus on downtown and local small businesses. Members of the department will start on the same day Mayor Swearengin takes office on January 6.

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