CRE Consulting Corps: Making a Difference in Fresno, California

"The CRE Consulting Corps team provided invaluable real estate assessment and recommendations. Those recommendations will greatly assist us with planning for the future expansion of our educational facilities and securing additional revenues to support our strategic directions."
Deborah G. Blue, Ph.D., Chancellor


Client: The State Center Community College District (SCCCD) in Fresno, California, has an enrollment exceeding 40,000 students and employs more than 2,300 faculty and classified staff. SCCCD covers more than 5,550 square miles of urban and rural territory, including most of Fresno and Madera Counties and portions of Kings and Tulare Counties in California. The District includes two accredited colleges and governs four educational and outreach centers as well as a number of community outreach programs in non-District owned facilities. The District offers higher education opportunities to thousands of students who might otherwise be unable to attend classes beyond high school.

Challenge: In 2012, the District adopted a Facilities Master Plan. The charge to the CRE Consulting Corps was to objectively analyze and evaluate recommendations under consideration from that plan, identify new development alternatives as circumstances dictated, and assess the pros and cons of each option. The scope of the assignment was unique in that it focused on four separate campuses, located within a 70-mile radius. Each location has its own distinct and individual identity, socio-economic and ethnic mix, and unique program offerings.  The campuses included in the engagement agreement were: Fresno City College, Reedley College, the Oakhurst Center and the Career and Technology Center. In the course of their work, the team also addressed real estate issues at the Madera and Willow International Centers.

Asessement: In August 2013, the six-member Consulting Corps team engaged in a five-day process of property tours, document review, market studies, on-site interviews, and meetings with the District leadership. In total, the team met with more than 200 individuals—stakeholders and community representatives—including business, labor, academic and real estate leaders. In addition, team members engaged constituent groups within and outside the district, including the Latino, African-American and Hmong/Southeast Asian communities. The team divided into small groups to study individual properties, but then took advantage of the creative power of the entire group during brainstorming sessions. In December 2013, the team co-chairs returned to Fresno to meet with the SCCCD Board of Trustees to discuss and clarify recommendations prior to delivery of the written report.

Recommendations: The heart of the team’s report included observations and recommendations for each of the properties studied. Space prohibits listing all the recommendations, but a sampling includes: monetization or sale of excess land, construction of new student housing, relocation of offices, preservation of open spaces, creation of parking structures,  establishment of another center in an under-represented neighborhood, new mixed-use development, and more.  An over-arching recommendation was that the State Center Community College District create a dedicated administrative infrastructure to manage all of its real estate property assets—either by installing a new internal professional team or outsourcing the function. The next step for the District is to create a timeline for implementing the recommended action steps to achieve the vision of the master plan.

This assignment was especially gratifying for me.  In addition to all the rewards of serving on a Consulting Corps panel, this assignment gave me the opportunity to use my ten years of experience as a Community College Trustee as well as my real estate acumen.

Paul T. Chiles, CRE, Team Co-Chair

Team: Team co-chairs were Paul T. Chiles, CRE, Chiles and Company, Seattle; and Mark L. Troen, CRE, The Winnmark Group, Warwick, NY. Team members included: P. Barton DeLacy, CRE, DeLacy Consulting, Chicago; John M. Duncum, CRE, The Duncum Group, College Station, Texas; Alice J. Johnson, CRE, Vero Beach, Fla.; and James S. Patton, CRE, Patton Consultants, Linthicum, Md. Special thanks to Brent A. Palmer, CRE, NewTower Trust Company, Seattle, who initially met with SCCCD leadership to define the scope of this project.