Downtown Fresno needs housing and retail, not a parking great deal

Downtown Fresno can not roar again to life — by that I indicate aid a vivid retail, eating and nightlife scene — without having far more men and women living there.

Significantly less than 1% of Fresno’s estimated 545,000 inhabitants live within the 1.5-sq. mile triangle contained by Highway 99, Highway 41 and Divisadero Road. Previous I inquired, the exact amount was 3,797.

Despite rents and occupancy premiums not far under individuals in north Fresno, downtown’s housing stock has fundamentally remained flat because Fulton Street’s significantly-celebrated reopening in 2017.

Which is why a proposed improvement for a crucial block of downtown real estate that has been kicking around City Hall for two a long time need to be purpose for optimism.

That is, until finally you consider a nearer seem at the conceptual programs and driving-the-scenes maneuverings.

Then the entire factor starts to look like a turkey — and not the kind served on Thanksgiving.

In December 2018, the city entered into an special negotiating agreement with Tutelian & Co. to redevelop practically an total block currently occupied by CVS Pharmacy, two parking loads and a frontage highway together Tuolumne Avenue.

Fulton & Tuolumne
An artist’s rendering of a proposed five-story development that would deliver far more housing, retail and parking to downtown Fresno. This look at is from Tuolumne and Fulton streets. Submitted to town of Fresno by Tutelian & Co.

First internet site designs for what is being known as Fulton Sq. were released in February and once again in July after undergoing slight modifications. The blended-use growth calls for 160 residential units spread more than a few 5-story structures and 30,000-square feet of retail room, most of it devoted to a new CVS keep and community market.

Appears fantastic, appropriate? Just the style of investment decision that is been lacking in Fresno’s core? Perfectly, indeed and no.

The considering is spot-on. Downtown requires new, eye-catching housing to give all these office personnel a motive not to strike the freeways at 5 p.m., and placing residential above retail is a principle that has worked in other cities.

So, much too, is the spot. Virtually all of the 627 new units constructed downtown from 2007-16 are situated north of Stanislaus Street. Fulton Square, put together with ongoing renovations at nearby Hotel Fresno, would provide hundreds more inhabitants nearer to existing eating places as perfectly as the burgeoning Brewery District.

Lastly, the developer has an established observe document. Tutelian & Co. constructed the Park Place and Villagio purchasing centers in north Fresno, the business constructing at 2440 Tulare Ave. that properties the Social Protection Administration and is centered at the refurbished 1401 Grand setting up found across the street from the proposed project.

Fresno Stamp Mural blocked

Despite all the positives and opportunity added benefits, why am I waving the yellow warning flag?

Well, for a pair of causes. The 1st is style. When I appear at artist renderings of Fulton Sq., I don’t see considerably consideration compensated to livability. What I see most of all is a enormous, five-story parking large amount at the project’s core. In reality, it appears like parking was the initially priority and housing secondary.

Does downtown Fresno genuinely require an additional hulking concrete edifice devoted to the almighty car? Simply cannot some, or all, of these 510 (!) parking stalls be constructed underground? It appears to do the job at Courthouse Park.

There is a lot more: The five-story parking garage would practically absolutely obscure the Fresno Stamp Mural on the facet of the developing at 1315 Van Ness. Painted by local muralist FranCisco Vargas months ahead of his loss of life in 2015, the 125-foot wide and 32-foot tall postage stamp has been showcased in many social media posts, advertising and marketing strategies and even songs videos.

Block a downtown landmark with a parking garage? I imagined Fresno stopped executing stupid points like that.

In reaction to complaints about the Fresno Stamp Mural, the most up-to-date architectural renderings added a viewing platform total with a group of pals posing for a selfie in entrance of the huge “F.”

Which in this occasion, would stand for “Fail.”

Mural selfie
Fresnans pose for a group selfie in front of the Fresno postage stamp mural from a viewing system in this artist’s rendition, element of a proposal for a combined-use housing, retail and parking complicated. Submitted to city of Fresno by Tutelian & Co.

Set individuals around cars

Fresno need to not enable so much of the streetscape on Fulton and Van Ness to be hogged by a hulking parking garage. Individuals — not autos — must be the No. 1 thing to consider of any downtown advancement.

Past aesthetic issues, there are some true questions about whether or not Fulton Square (which would reportedly price $57 million) will at any time come to fruition.

Two a long time back, Mayor Lee Brand name took the strange stage of granting a developer exclusive negotiating legal rights for a home they never very own. (CVS and the town are the two landowners in the project’s footprint.)

Considering the fact that then, what was initially a 270-working day time period has been prolonged three instances. All through Thursday’s meeting, the Town Council by a 4-3 vote approved another 60-working day extension until Feb. 6, 2021. Cliff Tutelian and the city administration sought 90.

In remarks to the council, Tutelian indicated he has manufactured significant progress in securing financing for the job as very well as obtaining a letter of intent from CVS. He produced identical claims 4 months back in a letter to Aldi Dodds, Fresno’s deputy city supervisor.

Make no miscalculation, downtown Fresno is ripe for a visionary task like Fulton Square. This unique eyesight, even so, is most likely ideal remaining to die on the vine.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on information, politics, athletics and good quality of life challenges for The Fresno Bee, wherever he has worked due to the fact 1998. He is a Bay Location indigenous, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not endure fools nor trolls.