Written by The Business Journal Staff
Gretchen Moore, Executive Director
Downtown Fresno Foundation
What we do:
We improve our community by providing resources and support for downtown Fresno stakeholders.
B.A. Mass Communications/Public Relations from Saint Mary’s College, South Bend, IN
Tell us about your career path to your current position, Gretchen.
I started out writing copy for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission website; served as a Legislative Aide in the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate; spent 8 years doing economic development, historic preservation and urban planning in Cleveland; then did fundraising for the Cleveland Foodbank. I came to Fresno as a Fellow with the White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities program where I spent two years with the Downtown Fresno Partnership (DFP) working on revitalization initiatives. After the fellowship, the DFP gave me the opportunity to start the Foundation and expand our work.
What’s the story behind the Downtown Fresno Foundation, Gretchen?
The Downtown Fresno Foundation is the sister organization to the Downtown Fresno Partnership. The Foundation was formed in March of this year. Our inaugural programs include the Create Here Business Plan Competition, the Restaurant Makeover competition and the (re)Discover Fresno mobile app (launching late this year).
What’s on the horizon for the Foundation, Gretchen?
Our next big project is the launch of the (re)Discover Fresno mobile app, created by local tech company OneSense. The app uses cutting edge technology to connect residents and visitors to all of Fresno’s best amenities. First up, we’re working on an interactive tour of the Fulton Mall artwork where users access their mobile device to learn about each piece and the artist that created it. The app serves to help people become more connected to and informed about Fresno. This is a great way for people to discover (or re-discover) the incredible assets that we have in our community. I expect the tour to launch late this year, and we’re already planning others including historic building tours, happy hour tours, and local events.
We’re also working on reviving and expanding the Boomerang Project. Early in 2016, we’ll be bringing together industry and community leaders to coordinate on a strategic plan to attract and retain young professionals.
What did you know about Fresno before you came here, Gretchen?
When I arrived here in 2012, I had already heard good things about the efforts to revitalize downtown Fresno. Mayor Swearengin’s leadership on revitalization is very well known among urban practitioners, so it was a great honor to be selected to join the movement. When I travel to conferences and workshops in other cities like Cleveland, Memphis, Chicago, New Orleans and Washington, DC, they talk about Fresno as a city that embraces innovation, that can take a punch and get right back up, that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit.” So I was very excited to come here and experience the energy and excitement around downtown revitalization. In the beginning, I heard a lot of Fresnans speaking negatively about their city, particularly downtown. Fortunately, that’s changed significantly in the last 3 years. People are showing much more civic pride and are seeing Fresno as a vibrant city with a lot to offer. The Atlantic has done a series on Fresno’s rebirth and the I Believe in Downtown Fresno campaign won an award from the International Downtown Association. People are taking note of this city’s transformation and continuing to say good things about this city.
What do you say to people who may be hesitant about coming downtown, Gretchen?
I tell them that they are missing out on all of the fun! The best thing about cities is that there is something for everyone, and that’s certainly the case in downtown Fresno: Visit the Tioga-Sequoia Beer Garden for local craft beer before a Grizzlies game; stop by Warnors Center for a classic movie, award-wining tea from Raizana Tea and vintage shopping at Misc. Trading Co.; or pamper yourself at The Loft Salon or Sheer Bliss. One of the best ways to experience downtown Fresno is through ArtHop on the first Thursday of the month. Hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying this city – it’s so much fun and has such a sense of community. If you’re not sure where to go or what to do, just contact DFP or the Foundation and we’ll be more than happy to show you around.
What did the Foundation learn in executing the Restaurant Makeover and Create Here competitions, Gretchen?
These competitions made me realize just how supportive this community truly is. The success of the competitions rested on our ability to pull together stellar prize packages in order to attract stellar competitors. Our community partners were so incredibly generous with their time and talent, donating over $125,000 in cash, professional services and materials. There is something very special about Fresno where local businesses work together to help support local entrepreneurs. These competitions really illustrated that and I could not be more grateful to our sponsors (including the Business Journal!) who gave so much to help us create great programs. We are so proud of Kikku Japanese Food’s beautiful makeover and we are looking forward to House of Pendragon/Pita Kabob opening next year.
What is the best advice you ever received?
First, count to ten
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Gretchen?
My first job was the 6 a.m. shift at McDonald’s. I was in high school, completely supported by my parents, and was just there to earn money for a trip to Italy with my Latin class. Many of my coworkers, however, were supporting families or putting themselves through school. Most of them pulled double shifts or worked two jobs. It was there that I learned that minimum wage is not the same as living wage, and I promised to always be extra patient with or kind to people who work thankless jobs for lousy pay.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Speaking at conferences and workshops all over the world, teaching other cities about the Fresno Model for Revitalization and how they, too, can achieve success.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Gretchen?
I love to travel and learn about other cities. I just returned from Spain where I attended a conference on urban renewal. I was in northern Spain and learned about the Basque culture and people, many of whom settled here in the Central Valley. What a great reminder of how we are all connected! I am also a Fresno Grizzlies superfan and spend a lot of time at the ballpark. We’re so lucky to have a national championship team playing in a beautiful stadium right in the heart of downtown. It’s the very best way to spend a summer evening.