‘Downtown all day!’ State of Downtown introduces new sustainable plans for the future of Fresno


Small businesses and restaurants serve attendees with local bites and brews. (Sarah Delgado/The Collegian).

By Sarah Delgado, Lifestyle Editor

Geri Yang-Johnson, national director for Dream.org and a Fresno native, said she is excited to collaborate with the Downtown Fresno partnership for sustainable living in Fresno.

Dream.org is launching a transformative community plan to make Fresno a more economic and sustainable choice for all of the Central Valley.

She made that goal clear on April 21 at the “State of Downtown” event.

“Last summer, Congress passed and approved $369 billion to address climate change. Our greatest global challenge [is climate change] and one that is especially felt in communities like Fresno,” Yang-Johnson said during her speech.

Hosts Ray Ortiz and Jordan Sanchez bring revitalized energy to Downtown Fresno. (Sarah Delgado/The Collegian)

State of Downtown was hosted by Ray Ortiz and Jordan Sanchez, celebrating small businesses and the diverse community that is present in Downtown Fresno.

Yang-Johnson spoke with The Collegian about what she is most excited for the collaboration between Dream.org and the Downtown Fresno Partnership.

“Downtown Fresno really is going to be a hub for sustainability, economic prosperity and economic opportunities. Not just for the people who live here but the businesses that are here, and so we’re here to celebrate the momentum and possibilities that are available for our Downtown,” Yang-Johnson said.

Dream.org plans to utilize the money approved by Congress to reduce pollution, preserve land and improve public health throughout 10 communities across the nation including Denver, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Washington, D.C.

“Communities have been locked out of a green economy, and communities have been sacrificed because we’ve put profits over people,” Yang-Johnson said.

Becca Minkoff, senior communications manager for Dream.org, and Maya Mosher, director of marketing for Dream.org, said that they are both excited to hear about the different diverse perspectives of how to benefit the future of Fresno.

“I know that our goal is to make sure that we support the community and having access to these funds in ways that are most effective for people within this community. So really, we want the community to be in the driver’s seat in that respect,” Minkoff said.

Mosher said that some of her concerns lie within Fresno’s rich agriculture and in marginalized communities.

“We’re excited to hear about different diverse perspectives and how people might want to benefit Fresno, whether that’s through public gardens, green spaces, public transportation or other solutions,” Mosher said. “We can then help the city agencies and different decision makers here in Fresno ensure that the public is benefiting from what they actually want.”

Elliott Balch, CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, has only been in his position for 34 days and has already set a vision for his plans to revitalize Downtown.

He said that the Fresno DRIVE Initiative is one of the reasons that prompted the Dream.org partnership to occur. Fresno DRIVE Initiative created a 10-year plan to revitalize Downtown.

State of Downtown also recognized community members: Dakari Cleveland, founder of Alley In The Valley and recipient of 2023 Above and Beyond Community Service Award; Chris Ramos of Bitwise Industries and VintageFresno.com; and Sevak Khatchadourian, owner of the Pacific Southwest, Helm and Radisson buildings.

Khatchadourian was recognized by Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer for his efforts to transform the Helm and Radisson buildings into new housing options. Khatchadourian was also the recipient of the 2023 Al Allen Downtown Leadership Award for his active involvement in the revitalization of Downtown.

“When I was introduced to Downtown [Fresno], I just fell in love with these beautiful buildings, because these cannot be duplicated,” Khatchadourian said during his acceptance speech. “Give it a couple of years and we’ll all be partying on Fulton Street very soon.”

Also announced during the event was an intention to build more student housing for Fresno City College students in the heart of Downtown Fresno.

In addition, Dyer also said that a new trolley bus will be coming to provide transportation between major districts like Tower District, The Mural District and Chukchansi Park.

Lamech Blackman, a Downtown Fresno youth ambassador, said he looks forward to seeing more people and more businesses open up in Fresno.

“I’m actually just trying to see a better Fresno,” Blackman said.

For more information on events taking place in Downtown Fresno, visit its website at downtownfresno.org.