The City of Fresno is inviting Tower District residents and businesses to weigh in on the next version of the Tower District Specific Plan – a future-oriented guide for how the neighborhood should develop over the next few decades.
A workshop will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Fresno City College cafeteria, located at 1094 E. Weldon Ave.
Lunch will be provided, along with Spanish interpretation and activities for children.
To RSVP for the workshop, click here.
The workshop will focus on getting ideas from the public about how to improve several districts within the Tower:
- Olive Avenue corridor
- Van Ness Village
- Belmont corridor
- Susan B. Anthony neighborhood
- Wishon and Maroa corridors
- Shields corridor
- Tower Entertainment District
Ideas on how to improve transportation safety and access; parks; affordable housing; and small businesses are welcome.
For those who cannot attend the Saturday workshop, monthly meetings are held at the Tower Theater lounge. The next meeting is on Tuesday, Sept. 19. A historic preservation subcommittee will also be meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31 at Root Access.
Feedback can also be emailed to Casey Lauderdale, a city planner, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fresno’s Tower District plan hasn’t been updated since 1991
The Tower District, one of Fresno’s first streetcar suburbs – and still one of the city’s most prominent walkable neighborhoods – has undergone a lot of change in the past few decades.
In the early 1990s, after a series of rezonings along Olive and Van Ness – one of which allowed the Circle K to be built on Palm and Olive – residents banded together to create a neighborhood plan that cemented their own aspirations and goals for the community, as former Fresno City Councilmember and community leader Craig Scharton shared with Fresnoland.
That plan and its goals – and the neighborhood’s distinct LGBTQ+ identity – came under question during the debacle over whether Adventure Church should be allowed to own the Tower Theater in 2021 and 2022. The city has since purchased the Tower Theater and recently contracted with a new group to operate and manage community events there.
Concerns linger over gentrification, affordability, and north/south divide
The fight over Adventure Church helped catalyze more community members to get involved in the future of the Tower District, said Alicia Rodriguez, owner of the Labyrinth Art Collective in Van Ness Village.
“It definitely sparked some interest in the systemic issues in the community. Who talked about zoning before this?
“We don’t have a nonaffirming church on the corner anymore, so that’s great. But how did we get there in the first place?”
Tower has been getting more resources recently: protected bike lanes, sidewalks near Muir Elementary, façade improvements for small businesses, and two new parks – one at Van Ness and Weldon, near Fresno High, and the other on Broadway, in south Tower, are on the way.
There’s also a community effort underway to bring a new branch of the Fresno County Public Library back to the neighborhood, after it was moved in the 1970s.
But concerns of gentrification and exacerbating disparities that trace back to redlining patterns of the early 20th century have Rodriguez worried that the plan could end up reinforcing those issues, without more intentional involvement of the working poor and those historically left out of policy conversations.
Groups like the South Tower Community Land Trust have recently formed to help keep a focus on the neighborhoods south of Olive that haven’t attracted as much attention and investment – while preserving affordability.
For more information on the Tower District Specific Plan process, visit their website.