The Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) program is off and running, having completed its first project for the City of Kingsburg. The small agricultural community, just 24 miles south of Fresno on State Highway 99, applied to CPAT to help its City staff and community leaders prepare a strategy for revitalization of its aging downtown. A team of six volunteer planning professionals was assembled and spent three and a half days in late April working on site with the community. They made their recommendations at a special City Council meeting on April 30 and then compiled a 62-page report which was delivered to the City on June 15 (click here to review a copy of the report).
The CPAT team was composed of retired planning director Robert Paternoster (FAICP) of Long Beach who served as team leader, Central Valley economic development specialist Mike Dozier, urban designer Tom Ford (AICP) from the M-Group in Hayward, Stan Hoffman (FAICP) of Stanley R. Hoffman Associates in Los Angeles, senior designer Emily Morishita with Hunt Design in Pasadena, and land use planner Cynthia de la Torre from the City of Beverly Hills. All provided their services pro bono, with Kingsburg covering out-of-pocket expenses for hotel, food and travel.
Kingsburg, known as the Swedish Village because of its rich Swedish heritage, has suffered a decline of its small but attractive downtown as absentee property owners have offered little support for local merchants in their competition with major retailers in nearby cities. The recommendations of the Community Planning Assistance Team included: formation of a Downtown Business Association; aggressive marketing to quality eating and drinking establishments, specialty shops, and a specialty movie theater to attract residents back to their downtown; a distinctive and cohesive wayfinding system based upon the Swedish Village brand to attract tourists from Highway 99; a new focus on agri-tourism showcasing the community’s orchard, wine, olive oil and raisin businesses; a revision to its zoning code to permit only retail, restaurant, and personal service uses on the ground floor in downtown; and the redevelopment of four catalytic sites for a new hotel and three new mixed-use buildings with ground- floor retail.
The Kingsburg CPAT project proved to be a productive and rewarding experience for both the volunteer team and for the City and people of Kingsburg. City Manager Alexander Henderson expressed his appreciation for the team’s work and his intent to move forward expeditiously to begin implementation of its recommendations.
Chapter members who wish to participate in the CPAT program should click here to obtain more information and to complete a volunteer form. It is also important for members to spread the word about the new program to municipalities or community groups that need assistance. An application is included in the referenced link.