Fresno neighborhood revitalization gets nat'l attention

FRESNO, Calif.

The city has worked very closely with Fresno State employees and students to clean this area up, everything from street maintenance to painting homes.

Now, universities throughout the country are taking notice and they're hoping this weekend's visit to Fresno will help them bring the same type of program back to their communities.

A chartered bus slowly made its way through Downtown Fresno's Lowell neighborhood Sunday.

Inside the bus were dozens of city and academic officials from around the country.

Some we spoke to say they're impressed by the close relationship Fresno State has with the city, in their efforts to clean up what has historically been a run-down area.

"It was very impressive to go through the neighborhood and see the different stages of revitalization," Mary Fisher of Indiana University-Purdue said.

"I've seen here, groups of volunteers who are working to go to help people as they take care of their homes," David Belcher of University Of Arkansas said. "That's something we haven't seen yet in our area and I think it's a great idea that I can take back."

This is the first time Fresno has hosted the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities Conference.

Sunday's tour ended inside Lowell Elementary School, where Fresno State students and city staff displayed photos showcasing the recent improvements to the Lowell neighborhood.

The city has bought, refurbished, and re-sold several homes as part of its neighborhood stabilization program.

Additionally, at least one new park has been built.

Fresno State students took on some of the responsibility by doing much of the work themselves and asking residents here what they want in their neighborhood.

"I know that a lot of the kids probably are really excited to see that now there's a lot more help in our community and they all seem so positive about the help," Fresno State senior Kimberly Sheard said.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin says the Lowell area improvements are just a small portion of the city's plan to revitalize downtown.

She says the fact that people nationwide are taking notice is a big step in the right direction.

"There are people literally here from dozens of universities across the country. We want them to go back to their cities, back to their regions to tell the story of Fresno and that's how we start to shift the perception of our city and the brand of our community in other parts of the country," Swearengin said.

Following Sundays tour the conference moved back over to Fresno State for a panel discussion.

Organizers say close to 400 people attended this weekend's conference.

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