Monday, March 29, 2010 2:53 PM

State applauds downtown Fresno redevelopment project

Downtown Fresno has captured the state’s attention – in a good way. At a time when bringing a more positive image to downtown Fresno has become a priority at city hall, Community Regional Medical Center and the Fresno Redevelopment Agency won the California Redevelopment Agency’s Award of Excellence for their 15-year partnership. The hospital and redevelopment agency collaborated to transform a blighted downtown area into the 58-acre academic regional medical center campus – the largest and longest redevelopment project ever undertaken in Fresno County.

The California Redevelopment Agency (CRA) gives the annual award to recognize redevelopment projects from throughout California that have significantly benefited their communities. Jim VanDeVelde, director of business development and outreach at Community Medical Centers, and Marlene Murphey, executive director of the Fresno Redevelopment Agency, accepted the award at the 2010 CRA Annual Conference and Expo in Pasadena.

VanDeVelde said it was both humbling and inspiring to accept the award for Community Regional.

“I realized at that moment that there were more than 4,000 employees at Community Regional that all had a part in that award and should be standing with me,” VanDeVelde said. “It was inspiring because it is such a remarkable achievement to think that the organization has had the vision and fortitude to see it through over such a long span of time. It affirms for me that, as an organization, we can do anything we set our mind to.”

Award nominees were evaluated based on efforts to improve the physical conditions in their communities, the extent of community participation and benefit, the economic and fiscal viability, stability of the project, unique and effective project designs and other criteria.

 “The $350 million dollars of investment was pivotal to downtown rejuvenation and paved the way for over a billion dollars in new development in recent years,” Murphey said. “The world-class Community Regional project represents the very best in public-private partnerships.”

Community Regional is home to the only combined, comprehensive burn center and Level 1 trauma center between Los Angeles and Sacramento, a 52-bed Neuroscience Center of Excellence, a 50-bed cardiovascular unit, the region’s only high-risk antepartum unit and a 65-bed Level III neonatal intensive care unit. The hospital campus also houses the University of California San Francisco Fresno Medical Education Program, with more than 200 residents and fellows training to be physicians of the future. Community also is the area’s safety net, providing nearly $149 million in uncompensated services to the medically underserved in fiscal year 2008-2009. Community has historically spent more on uncompensated community benefits than all other Fresno-area hospitals combined, and in some years nearly double their combined total.

“The expanded campus replaced blight with state-of-the-art medical facilities that deliver quality health services to a seriously underserved population,” Murphey said.

Construction is ongoing at Community Regional with the Deran Koligian Ambulatory Care Center opening to patients in March.

Award nominees were evaluated by 20 professionals who are elected from the development, public service, economic development and redevelopment fields.

“This project helps everyone in the Central Valley,” VanDeVelde said. “More and more people are turning to Community Regional for their most acute health care needs and no longer need to travel outside of the Valley.”

This story was reported by Jennifer Avila-Allen. She can be reached at