The city core of Fresno — the fifth-largest city in California, with a population of 520,159 in 2015 and a distinctive mix of more than 80 different nationalities — has been the focus of revitalization efforts following a period of neglect. The city has grown 18.4% since 2000, higher than the state average rate of 12.4%, and much higher than the national average rate of 11.6%.
The CityView @ Van Ness units are mostly one-bedroom apartments, with a few studios and two-bedroom units, and a higher affordability threshold of 50% to 60% area median income. Photo courtesy of Paul Mullins
At the same time, Fresno’s median home value has increased 80.5% since 2000, above the state average rate of 75.6% and national average rate of 46.9%.
The Fresno Housing Authority has sought to play a critical role in driving community revitalization by creating and renovating quality affordable housing, including the development of CityView @ Van Ness. The new development produced 45 units of affordable housing for entry-level workforce households. As an anchor for the revitalization of downtown Fresno, the influx of residents and added new commercial space supports downtown economic development. The project site, centrally located near downtown businesses, restaurants and public transportation hubs, was envisioned to be a good location to attract younger workforce residents.
“The site is a perfect location for downtown,” said Christina L. Husbands, senior manager of planning and community development at the Fresno Housing Authority. “It helps to realize the vision of the city and catalyze projects downtown.”
The design process was guided by history and architectural memory of the original Droge Building, which had deteriorated to the point of becoming an eyesore and was demolished. Photo courtesy of Paul Mullins
CityView @ Van Ness comprises a four-story design that includes three stories of residential above 3,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial/retail space and 2,500 square feet of common space. The $10.6 million project, financed with 4% federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, City of Fresno HOME funds and other sources, replaced a long-vacant building on a historic site. Even though the original structure was eventually demolished, the end product incorporates thoughtful design elements that preserve the history of the site. The architect’s efforts to create a distinctive design for the project create an appealing building that is an asset to the neighborhood.
To help narrow down the final plan, Fresno Housing convened stakeholder meetings downtown and hosted a community charrette to present several possible mixed-use configurations for the site. Strategically developing a mixed-use property and targeting a demographic in need of housing options that was already working downtown helped create a successful, vibrant project in downtown Fresno. The influx of residents and added new commercial space supports downtown economic development.
The opportunity to develop CityView @ Van Ness emerged at a time when most new housing being built in Fresno was higher end. CityView @ Van Ness seeks to have a similar look and feel as upscale properties, but offers affordability for entry-level staff who work downtown and can’t afford more expensive options. The new development contains affordable housing for households earning below 50% and 60% of the area median income (AMI), or between $25,000 and $35,000 per year.
Key Factors for Success:
- Housing authority engaging in community building
- Collaborative effort between the housing authority and the city
- Affordable housing in a mixed-use property as an economic stimulus for downtown
- Modern, attractive design that challenges conventional notions of affordable housing
- Careful consideration to address the historic significance of the site
For more housing affordability resources, including the full case study on the City View @ Van Nessproject, visit nahb.org/housingforall and the Land Use 101 toolkit at nahb.org/lu101. The toolkit also includes access to the full How Did They Do It? report.
Deborah L. Myerson, AICP — author of the How Did They Do It? Report — contributed to the content of this article. Myerson is an urban planner with 20 years of experience in housing, community development, land use and transportation policy, and urban revitalization.