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Young Developers announce new Downtown Project
The City Council will hear a new proposal tomorrow for a master planned development in Downtown's Cultural Arts District. Reza Assemi, Will Dyck, and Austin Ewell III announced a plan to build 250 new housing units and 75,000 square feet of commercial space in the blocks between Tulomne and Divisadero Downtown.
Councilmember Henry T. Perea, who helped shape the concept, says the project is "much more visionary" than previous efforts to revitalize Downtown and will provide Downtown with missing housing and amenities.
"Lots of council members talked to developers about coming downtown," said Perea. But it wasn't until they started talking to their next of kin that progress was made.
The three developers range in age from 28 to 31, and have all lived in major metropolitan areas and returned to Fresno. Ewell and Dyck went to school in southern California, while Assemi spent time in San Francisco. Assemi is currently developing 38 units at the Vagabond Lofts, scheduled to open July 31st. Ewell works with his father at The Clarksfield Company, the developer of Millerton New Town and Brighton Crest Country Club. He is also a practicing attorney. Dyck founded the Summa Development Group, which focuses on industrial and commercial projects. He has previously partnered with Assemi on Tower District infill housing; the two have known each other their whole lives.
Details on the project are not clear. The Redevelopment Agency will ask the city council Tuesday for direction to explore feasibility for 250 units in the area, says RDA Director Marlene Murphy. After 90-120 days, the RDA will come back to the council with a proposal for an exclusive negotiating agreement for the project area. She said it was not possible to estimate what the cost to taxpayers would be. She said the city's role would be to facilitate infrastructure to tie Downtown and the Tower District together, provide design guidelines, and plan for parking demand. Assemi also stressed the need for landscaping, tree wells, pocket parks, and lighting.
Assemi says one part of the project could include three-story row houses on Fulton and Broadway Streets between Amador and San Joaquin. While Assemi, Ewell, Dyck, and Perea all stressed the significance of the three working together, at this time only Assemi's name will be on the exclusive negotiating agreement.
"In this project I'm coming along side of Reza and Austin to work together in doing an entire community instead of just one building," said Dyck. "By working togehter and doing some maybe on our own and some collaboration we're much better able to master plan a community." Dyck is currently in escrow on a warehouse he will convert to office space.
Ewell says "I'm learning as I go" and that three heads are better than one. "We've talked about a couple of different scenarios. We need to take different pieces at the same time, but with one major goal." Ewell is also working on other Downtown buildings.
While there is no budget or firm timeline in place, Assemi says that "in a perfect world" the project could be completed in five years.