Embarrassed No More. Fresno Finally Is Getting a Real Senior Center. - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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Embarrassed No More. Fresno Finally Is Getting a Real Senior Center.

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City Hall wants Fresno residents to share their ideas on what they want to see in the 30,000-square-foot senior center on Blackstone Avenue. (Shutterstock)
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One of Fresno’s biggest embarrassments finally is being erased.

Portrait of GV Wire News Director Bill McEwen

Bill McEwen

Opinion

For decades, city leaders — elected and in the business community — championed building a dedicated seniors center. In fact, it was supposed to finally happen at the old Sierra Hospital near Blackstone and Dakota avenues in the late 1990s but never did.

Every ensuing attempt ended in failure and finger-pointing, sending a loud policy message to those up in years that they didn’t matter.

The excuse always came down to funding. Anyone who pays attention knows that lack of funds often is a handy excuse to cover a lie.

At City Hall, building a senior center wasn’t enough of a priority to merit the money and political cooperation needed to get one off the drawing board. Never mind that practically every city in the United States — large or small — found a way to build a place where seniors could gather, exercise, talk, play games, and know that they’re a vital part of the community.

Thankfully, we’ve finally elected a mayor and city council who’ve come together to commit to building that special place for Fresno’s 63,286 residents age 65 and older. Thank you, too, to everyone who voted for Measure P, the parks sales tax.

As envisioned, this senior activity center will be 30,000 square feet and a home for activities and services on Blackstone Avenue between Ashlan and Gettysburg. The former supermarket building there will be demolished. Completion could come as early as late 2025.

Credit former councilmembers Henry R. Perea, Henry T. Perea, and Clint Olivier for keeping the dream alive and helping provide seniors with some activities through the Fresno Adult School at Manchester Center.

Credit, too, must go to Rosemary Rojas, who in Olivier’s words, “was the leading voice for a Fresno senior center for at least a decade.” I know she wore out more than one mayor with her relentless demand that City Hall do right by seniors.

Be Sure to Make Your Ideas Known

But something has to happen before construction begins: folks telling City Hall what they want in the senior center.

“We have an incredible opportunity to work together and create something special for our seniors,” says Mayor Jerry Dyer. “Creating something that’s a ‘first’ in the City of Fresno is significant, and that’s why we need the community’s help. We want people to help us make sure this center is everything our seniors deserve.”

Echoes City Council President Tyler Maxwell: “Now we need extensive input from our senior community so we can design and build the best senior center … ever seen in the Central Valley.”

In the years ahead, affordable senior housing could complement the center.

On Wednesday, officials held a ribbon-cutting on an outreach headquarters at 4325 N. Blackstone where ideas can be shared on everything from activities to the center’s design.

The headquarters is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. People can also sound off by completing a survey at this link. Finally, idea meetings will be held across the city and online through mid-August.

A Little Bit of Cooperation and a Lot More Action

How long have I written about the glaring need for a Fresno senior center?

When I started, I still had kids at home. Now I’m a grandpa and a senior myself.

Better late than never, it’s been said.

Hopefully, future mayors and city councils will be inspired to take timely action on more of Fresno’s pressing issues with the skill and cooperation we’re seeing today.

Make Your Voice Heard

GV Wire encourages vigorous debate from people and organizations on local, state, and national issues. Submit your op-ed to rreed@gvwire.com for consideration. 

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email