Downtown Fresno swoons as college district buys landmark for new HQ

Fresno mayor says this is good news for downtown Fresno

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand praises the community college district for choosing downtown for its headquarters.
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Fresno Mayor Lee Brand praises the community college district for choosing downtown for its headquarters.

State Center Community College District is moving its headquarters to downtown Fresno so a new math and science building can be built at Fresno City College. The move should eventually create 325 additional parking spaces at the central Fresno campus.

Meanwhile, boosters of downtown Fresno are hailing the pending move as an affirmation that downtown revitalization efforts are paying dividends.

"This is such an exciting announcement to see such a significant public institution choose downtown Fresno," said former Mayor Ashley Swearengin, CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation. "It's a sign that the attention and the focus of the community is moving back to downtown."

At a news conference Thursday at the building, Mayor Lee Brand praised the community college district for choosing downtown for its headquarters.

"This is really big," Brand said. "This announcement also sends a strong message that the future of downtown Fresno is looking brighter every day … You can't deny there's a new energy here."

The former Guarantee Savings building has a Fulton Street address that now carries a certain cachet since the street reopened last year following a $22 million makeover.

The community college district's board of trustees voted Tuesday to buy the building for $10.6 million. Money for the purchase is coming from Measure C, the $485 million bond approved by voters two years ago, and from capital project reserve funds, the district said.

The purchase of the 82,000-square-foot, 12-story building also includes the adjacent 642-stall parking garage. The sale is expected to close by June 30.

About 160 staff members will move to the new headquarters when it opens, possibly by the end of this summer, although there's no timeline. District staff are based at both Fresno City College and Clovis Community College Herndon campus.

"It's an exciting time for State Center Community College District," said Chancellor Paul Parnell. "We're pleased to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Fresno in bringing our district offices under one roof."

State Center Community College District also includes Reedley College, centers in Madera and Oakhurst and the Career & Technology Center in Fresno.

The city played a role in finding the property for State Center.

After confirming that Fresno City College is too landlocked for a new math and science building, the district issued a "request for proposals" for a new headquarters and the city followed up, said district spokeswoman Lucy Ruiz.

A boardroom and office space must be constructed at the building, but major renovations are not needed, she said. Tenants at the building can continue to operate, she said.

As for the large "G" sign on the roof that is visible for miles: "It's a historical building, I don't expect the community college district would take that down," Ruiz said.

Also known as the Mattei building, it was built in the 1920s and purchased in 1961 by Guarantee Savings. It's on the Local Register of Historic Resources maintained by Historic Fresno.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold