Federal Role in Revitalizing Distressed Cities: Interagency Collaboration and Local Partnerships. 2.1.3 Advancing the Vision for the Fulton Mall in Fresno

08/25/2014

In Fresno, advancing the vision for redeveloping the moribund downtown Fulton Mall was a major priority for the mayor and constituted a large component of the SC2 pilot work. As the work evolved, it became clear that to achieve the vision and leverage existing federal investments in the strategy, collaboration was needed across the large number of federal agencies involved: EPA, FHWA, DOT, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) of the Department of Energy (DOE), the General Services Administration (GSA), and HUD.

At the outset of SC2, team members from various agencies were responsive as issues with the Fulton Mall projects surfaced, and they each worked to solve problems that were related to requirements and programs specific to their own agency. However, it became clear that no single agency had the solution to these complex problems, which involved historic preservation, conflicts between optimal land uses and prioritizing congestion relief, and balancing economic development priorities with transportation planning.

Recognizing this complexity, team members were committed to working together to carry out the mayor’s vision, especially as they learned of the multitude of federal investments in the area. The FTA had an investment in the bus rapid transit line. DOT had an investment in the HSR station a mere two blocks from the mall. HUD, EPA, and DOT had an investment in the region through the Sustainable Regional Planning Grant, much of the funding for which was directed to downtown planning. Understanding the numerous federal investments in the same land area made clear the need for coordination across agencies.

Though it took the team members a few months to understand the scope of the existing set of projects, they ultimately were able to see how they could align the various investments. Each agency played a fairly distinct role in working to advance the vision of the Fulton Mall. The FHWA representative was the point person for all of DOT and, ultimately, the grantor of the 2013 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funding for Fulton Mall. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities was also very involved in the Fulton Mall area work, funding technical assistance to assess the opportunities for anchor institutions to locate in the city, and specifically in the Fulton Mall, and funding and staffing an infill development task force to accelerate redevelopment in downtown and the Fulton Mall area.

Interagency collaboration was critical to optimizing the use of federal dollars in the Fulton Mall area. Team members from many of these agencies helped uncover additional resources and identified potential federal grant opportunities in an effort to connect various elements of Fulton Mall planning to a larger vision for downtown revitalization. With federal staff focused on the same vision, they were better able to see what other projects and investments were necessary and thus able to direct city staff to pursue appropriate funding for those projects. Even agencies that did not have investments directly in the Fulton Mall area kept up-to-date on project progress with those who did to determine how to best leverage existing investment to attract other investment into the downtown area adjacent to the mall. There were several examples of the results of team member collaboration. First, the proposed bus rapid transit route was rerouted so as to touch the Fulton Mall and other major downtown areas. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the DOE OCIO sought to get broadband downtown as a way to lure new agricultural technology companies to the area. SBA made downtown its priority for small business development and training. Finally, GSA Region 9 joined the effort to revitalize Fulton Mall and agreed to stay in the downtown area after the end of its lease.

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