Pharmacy University location causing controversy

May 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A well-known Valley family is moving forward with plans to build a much-needed pharmacy college in the Fresno area. But there's debate about where this planned school should be located.

A building on Clovis Avenue near Herndon Avenue will host the first classes if and when the for-profit university becomes accredited. But the Assemi family, which is launching this pharmacy college, already has plans for a larger campus. That location will likely be in a place Fresno city officials don't want it.

Developers are hopeful California Health Sciences University will create jobs and fill a major need for health care workers. Fresno city council members just approved a resolution to back the campus plans, despite Mayor Ashley Ashley Swearengin's push to bring the university to downtown Fresno.

"It's a pretty ambitious plan, but it requires a substantial amount of land and those properties just don't exist in one space here in downtown," said CHSU representative Jeff Roberts.

The Assemi family, who also own Granville Homes, plans to build the pharmacy school in Fresno County, near Millerton Lake. The land there, they say, is open enough for the pharmacy school to eventually expand to a full campus with food services and housing.

Fresno resident Martha Kolstad pushed for the Millerton plan at the city council meeting. She says it's idealistic to build a campus downtown but not practical.

"The money is already available," she said. "The land is already available. It's totally different from a lot of the projects that we talk about where we're trying to figure out who's going to put up the money."

Another Fresno resident said the Millerton location would be too far out of reach for low-income communities. "It will make a difference for those youth in southeast Fresno and southwest Fresno," the resident said. "Those people in Friant, north Fresno they already have cars and transportation. Over here we do not have that."

No matter the location, both sides agree, this new pharmacy university will open opportunities the valley desperately needs.

While Fresno leaders want the campus downtown there is no incentive for the Assemis to develop the university there.

Those expansion plans are still a few years from reality. University officials will work on accreditation through the summer. They're planning to start classes in 2014.


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