UPDATE: The latest class of Downtown Academy is incredible! I’m amazed by how engaging and passionate this group is. You bet I will be posting about Downtown Academy on the blog! 

DETAILS

  • FLYP is now accepting applications for Downtown Academy’s Class IV.
  • Deadline is April 15, 2015.
  • Class meets the first Tuesday of every month from June 2015 to April 2016.
  • Cost of Downtown Academy is $300.
  • This is a FLYP member program. You can become a member of FLYP here
  • Apply for Downtown Academy here

Photo taken by Alvaro Romero, owner of Misc. Trading Co. in downtown Fresno.

You have the chance to become a tourist in your own city while learning about the history and future of downtown Fresno!

Fresno Leading Young Professionals (FLYP) is now accepting applications for the upcoming class of Downtown Academy. This will be my third year part of this program! The April 15th deadline is fast-approaching, so I wrote a (detailed) blog post to explain more about Downtown Academy.

 

WHAT IS DOWNTOWN ACADEMY?

Downtown Academy is an 11-month program that gives young professionals (and those young at heart) an opportunity to learn more about downtown Fresno and revitalization. FLYP will chose 30 applicants to meet on the first Tuesday Night of every month. Members will gain insight from tours, discussions, and decisions happening now that will affect the city of Fresno.

 

GOAL OF DOWNTOWN ACADEMY

This program was developed, in 2010, by Fresno’s Leading Young Professionals, and Former Downtown & Community Revitalization Director Craig Scharton. The Downtown Fresno Partnership came on as a partner, in 2012.

Downtown Fresno is the center of our city. If you don’t have a healthy center then the entire city can’t improve. That is why downtown revitalization is so important. I do believe an important ingredient in making revitalization efforts successful is the involvement of young professionals. In Downtown Academy, we encourage professionals from all backgrounds and industries to explore the question: “How can we transform downtown Fresno into a vibrant place where people can live, work, and play?”

In Downtown Academy we aren’t just talk! We require members to take part in their own class project to help improve Downtown.

Class III holds numbers of how many guests they had at their “I Believe in Downtown Fresno” parties. As their class project, they chose to spread the word about downtown Fresno to friends, families, and co-workers.

CLASS AGENDA

Downtown Academy, generally, meets the first Tuesday Night (5:30-9:00PM) of every month. Each class night begins with a tour of Downtown (relevant to that night’s theme), led by owner of Peeve’s Public House, Craig Scharton, and CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, Aaron Blair. Each class night concludes at one of the best restaurants in downtown Fresno. You’ll find the dinner table buzzing with members discussing what they learned and how it’s relevant in continuing efforts to revitalize Downtown.

Below is the class agenda (subject to change). You can print a copy, here.

Downtown Academy members will feel like a tourist as they walk down the Fulton Mall and learn about its history, design, art, and future.

Class Day #1 (June 2, 2015), Fulton Mall Tour – This will be an introduction to downtown Fresno. We will get to walk the heart of downtown Fresno, the Fulton Mall. The Fulton Mall is the oldest existing pedestrian mall in the US. It brought national attention to Fresno when it opened in 1964. We will learn about its design, decline, and future. Dinner will be provided at Downtown’s most talked about business: Peeve’s Public House.

Class Day #2 (July 10-11, 2015), Class Field Trip – Have you ever traveled to the downtowns of Pasadena, Burbank, and Long Beach. This will be your chance to do so! Members will hear how these vibrant urban centers  had a similar history of disrepair as downtown Fresno. We’ll see that Fresno isn’t much different than other California cities. We will talk with investors and organizations to learn about successful attempts to revitalize these urban centers. What works? What doesn’t work? And what ideas can we take home to Fresno? This is a wonderful opportunity to bond with new classmates.

Class Day #3 (August 4, 2015), Fresno Grizzlies & Tioga Sequoia – We will tour Chukchansi Park while learning what the Fresno Grizzlies has in store for the downtown community. Watch a game and enjoy dinner at the Cru Club. We will also visit Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company, located across the street. The brewery opened up their beer garden, about a year ago, and is now a destination for craft beer lovers.

Class Day #4 (September 1, 2015), Lowell/Downtown Neighborhood Tour – The Lowell Neighborhood is located between Tower District and Downtown. It is home to some of the most beautiful historic homes in Fresno. A few years ago, the area was infamous for a high crime rate and a high poverty rate. We will meet a few neighbors and learn how Lowell has become the thriving community we know it as today. Dinner will take place at Fresno’s destination steakhouse: Richard’s Prime Rib and Seafood.

Class Day #5 (October 6, 2015), Downtown Urban Living – What is it like to live in Downtown? On this night, we will tour several residential developments. These range from historic buildings that have been renovated to new developments. Meet both residents and investors, and learned why they decided to become part of the Downtown community. Step back in time and enjoy dinner at one of Downtown’s oldest restaurants: Tokyo Garden.

Past Downtown Academy tours have included Warnors Theatre. Warnors was built in 1929 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the theater has showings of classical films

Class Day #6 (November 3, 2015), Historic Theaters – Downtown Fresno is home to a handful of beautiful historic theaters. These aren’t your typical movie theaters. Some of these theaters were built when vaudeville and silent movies ruled the entertainment industry. Take a look inside and learn how these theaters are being used today. We will have dinner at a restaurant that serves some of the best sandwiches I have ever tasted: Duke’s Downtown!

Class Day #7 (December 3, 2015), ArtHop – This class night takes place on the first Thursday of December during ArtHop. ArtHop is one of the busiest nights in Downtown. Fresnans have the chance to visit over thirty venues to celebrate the growing art culture in Fresno. Downtown Academy members will see where ArtHop started and visit other popular venues. We end the night at Cosmopolitan, a family-owned and operated business since 1933.

Class Day #8 (January 6, 2015), Historic Chinatown – Did you know that Fresno has its own Chinatown? In the late 1800s to early 1900s, Chinatown was the first home for many of Fresno’s immigrants. It is also home to some of the oldest family-owned businesses. This district is rich in history and mystery! We will enjoy dinner at Central Fish Company, known for serving the freshest fish in town. We will then tour the area to learn about its fascinating history and what the future holds for it, specifically concerning the high-speed rail.

Class Day #9 (February 2, 2016), Redevelopment, Finance, and Government – It might not sound like the most captivating class night but you will be surprised! By this time, you will be rich in knowledge about Downtown and revitalization. But what does the City have planned for the area? Can the City afford to revitalize Downtown? Is it all talk? We will speak with people from City Hall about how the City will implement plans and finance redevelopment. Enjoy dinner nearby at Umi Sushi.

Class Day #10 (March 1, 2016), Downtown Employers – Downtown Fresno is a major job center in Fresno. Learn more about Downtown employers and tour their facilities. Dinner will take place at one of the biggest employers in Downtown: Club One Casino.

Class Day #11 (April 5, 2016), Graduation – It’s finally here, graduation! Enjoy a fun evening with your fellow classmates. Reminisce about your favorite moments, talk about the results of your class project, and leave with certificates and gifts!

Class III toured the Robert E. Coyle Federal Courthouse. Check out the beautiful skyline!

COST

The cost for this 11-month program is $300.00. Payment plans are available; email smoffat (at) flypinfo.com for more information. The cost includes all tours, dinner during each class night, and the cost of lodging, transportation, and dinner during the weekend trip.

This is program is open to only FLYP members. You can become a member of FLYP, for $35, on their Web site.

 

MY STORY

I was part of Downtown Academy’s Class II, in 2011-2012. I was born and raised in Fresno. The Stumpf family first settled, in Downtown, in 1898. Yet, before I joined Downtown Academy, I knew very little about Downtown and less about why we needed to revitalize the area. I was comfortable with living north of Herndon Avenue.

When I started That Fresno Blog, my research always led me to downtown Fresno. I realized that Downtown was where most of the excitement was. I knew that I couldn’t further my career, as a real estate broker, if I wasn’t educated about Fresno’s center. When I went to my first FLYP mixer, I met Sarah Moffat, chairman of Downtown Academy. She excitedly told me about Downtown Academy. I was sold!

Three years have passed. I still stay connected with my fellow classmates, and I’m now chairman of the Downtown Academy alumni group. I live, work, and play in Downtown!

Me at Downtown Academy Class III’s graduation. Graduates got to take home a downtown Fresno poster (pictured).

WHAT PAST GRADUATES ARE SAYING ABOUT DOWNTOWN ACADEMY

Don’t just take my word for it! I asked past graduates about their experience in Downtown Academy…

Why did you apply for Downtown Academy?

The fate of Downtown Fresno is something I’ve long been passionate about. I grew up in Southeast Fresno, just a mile or two from the Fulton Mall. I remember shopping there as a kid and spent a fair amount of time in downtown as I grew up. Like many, I left Fresno after high school and lived in some great cities (Los Angeles, the Bay Area and New York). When I returned it was clear to me that Downtown Fresno’s dwindling vibrancy had devastating effects not only on my childhood neighborhood, but on the city as a whole. Plus, selfishly, I like urban environments and wanted to have that experience in Fresno.Kathleen Rhodes Schock, Class II

I work for Downtown Fresno Partnership as the communications and marketing gal so I wanted to be better able to tell the story. –Kim Leonard, Class III

I knew our downtown had been failing for a long time. As a life long Fresnan, you think I would know why, but I realized I had very little idea as to “why.”  The most common answer was “there is nothing to do down there.” And somehow that is where the conversation ended. I saw DT Academy as an opportunity to find out why our downtown was in despair and what WE could do to fix it.Nick Napoletano, Class II

Pictured is Chris Sorensen’s art studio near the Fresno welcome sign. Sorensen’s studio is one of Downtown Academy’s ArtHop spots that will change your perception that no one wants to go to Downtown.

What was your experience being in Downtown Academy?

It was outstanding. When I started Downtown Academy I felt fairly well informed about downtown and revitalization in general but after just the first couple classes, it became clear that I had a lot to learn. The experience in the program was so eye opening. -Kathleen Rhodes Schock

I learned so much- way more than I even expected! I looked forward to every class because I knew something new would click, and getting to know my classmates was priceless. It turns out, the coolest go-getters in Fresno are the kind of people who apply for Downtown Academy. Every class day felt like a brainstorming session on how to make Fresno a better place! -Kim Leonard

It was a great experience. Different people with different backgrounds all coming together with a common interest – to see a revitalized downtown. And the word “revitalized” had different meanings to each of us. We got to see what that meant through each-others eyes. The tours were also great. I had a chance to discover what was behind some of these beautiful facades I have driven past for years!! The (weekend) trip was a great bonding experience for the group. It was the spark to our hard core downtown brainstorming. -Nick Napoletano

Class II visiting Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade during their weekend trip to other successful urban centers in California.

Have you been working on any downtown-related projects since graduating from Downtown Academy?

After DT Academy I joined the board of an organization that launched the I Believe in Downtown Fresno campaign. As part of that effort we encouraged hundreds of downtown advocates to host small meetings for friends and family to discuss downtown revitalization. It was a great campaign…in fact I still see the yard signs around town! My involvement with that effort was directly tied to my experience in DT Academy and I am so grateful to have played a small part in the continued efforts to inform the community about the importance of downtown revitalization. -Kathleen Rhodes Schock

Working for DFP, everything I do- even at home, eventually becomes a downtown related project. Right now, I’m working on a handful of new Yellow Umbrella Tour ideas to introduce people to the many sides of Downtown Fresno.  I also am helping get the Fulton Street Art Collection’s website running and I’ll be maintaining and updating the information there. As cheesy as it sounds, my favorite part of my job is sharing downtown with other people and Downtown Academy enabled me to do this with much more authority than I had before. – Kim Leonard

Projects after DT Academy ranged from being a part of the DT Alumni committee, attending General Plan Update meetings, and organizing Tap takeovers at pubs in the area. Currently, I am working on a couple of events this spring. One will be a music event downtown to raise money for a charity organization I am involved with. Second will be a car show hopefully at the water tower. I don’t have the venues locked down yet, but they will certainly be downtown. Long term, because of this class, I have begun to follow one of my dreams which is urban design, and hope to design great downtown spaces one day. -Nick Napoletano

Kathleen helped launched the “I Believe in Downtown Fresno” campaign after graduating from Downtown Academy.

Is there anything else you would like to say to anyone thinking about applying for Downtown Academy?

DT Academy is one of those rare programs that offers value to anyone, regardless of their interest or opinions regarding downtown revitalization. By going through the program you learn so much about the community as a whole, how revitalization works (and doesn’t work), the challenges and opportunities downtown offers, and why all of this matters. Plus, it’s super fun. I met great people, had a blast during the class and expanded my professional network. -Kathleen Rhodes Schock

This is such a great program, even people who think they know downtown Fresno inside out could benefit from interacting with other community minded people. Chances are, even the know-it-all’s will learn a lot. -Kim Leonard

Its a great class, you never know who you will meet and enjoy a pint with. -Nick Napoletano

Peeve’s Public House, located on the Fulton Mall

 

HOW TO APPLY

You can click here to start the application process. You will be asked a variety of questions about your experience with Downtown and why you want to join Downtown Academy.

The application period ends soon – April 15, 2015! Class IV will be announced on April 25th, 2015.

 

You can follow Downtown Academy ( @flyp_dtacademy) on Instagram and Twitter.

 

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Have a lovely day in Fresno!

Veronica Stumpf, Broker

Stumpf and Company, Real Estate

BRE Lic. #01906952

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