More Forest City Delays

December 16, 2008 10:31:18 PM PST
A plan to revitalize a large part of Downtown Fresno is being delayed ... again.The 100 million dollar South Stadium Project covers eighty-five acres south of Chukchansi Park. Plans call for a multi screen movie theater, apartments and retail stores but in the last few years there have been several obstacles and setbacks.

The developer wanted a one year extension so it could continue working exclusively with the city of Fresno but the council amended that request to six months in hopes of finally getting the ball rolling.

Forest City Enterprises burst onto the Fresno scene with grand promises of revitalizing the city's lackluster downtown with retail stores and housing. That was four years ago and there has yet to be a single shovel break ground. Tuesday Forest City asked the Fresno City Council for a six month extension to work out its plan. It would be their third extension, which prevents the city from talking with other developers.

Jerry Duncan said, "An exclusive negotiating agreement extension is a very routine thing."

Council Member Jerry Duncan supports Forest City's continued interest and investment especially in this bad economy when other projects are being put on hold or dropped altogether. He estimates the developer spent $600-hundred thousand dollars on an environmental impact report for the 10 block project.

"If we decide today that this relationship is over that money is wasted and the message it sends to the business community is you don't want to do business with Fresno because they'll pull the rug from underneath you," said Duncan.

Council Member Mike Dages says he'll vote "no" on the extension. Forest City Representatives wouldn't comment until after they met with the council. If the project does get the green light the City of Fresno could use eminent domain to get the land it needs. A troubling thought for Larry Champagne, owner of champagne quality cars in downtown.

"I'm not against moving because I don't want to stop progress but I'm also concerned about all the work I've put into downtown and all my loyal customers," said Larry Champagne.

James Haron said, "I'm in favor of giving them an extension. They've proven to be a worthy partner."

Jaguar Dealer James Haron was initially opposed to Forest City's Project until he learned his business would not be swallowed up by eminent domain.

Just moments ago the Fresno City Council voted yes on the six month extension. About a year and a half ago Forest City said it expected to be finished with the project's first phase in 2011. This extension may delay that first phase ... which could then delay the other 2 phases.

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