Developer in Legal Battle with City of Fresno

February 10, 2009 12:06:20 AM PST
A Fresno developer is now in a legal battle with the city over an old downtown building.The Droge building has seen better days. Built in the 1920s, it sits vacant at the corner of Van Ness and Inyo in Downtown Fresno. A view from a nearby parking garage shows the roof collapsing. The city filed a lawsuit targeting the owner calling the old building a nuisance. Deputy City Attorney Charlotte Hylton said they're trying to force the building's owner to make it safe. Hylton said, "You can see it is being held up by polls. We consider that to be an endangerment to the public health and safety."

When you walk around the building, you actually have to dodge 12 large mental braces. They extend all the way from the second story to the street level. Despite the ominous looking nature of these, the building's owner says the shell is structurally sound.

Cliff Tutelian owns the building. He addressed city council members last summer about the same issue. Tutelian says he invested more than $200,000 in design and demolition work. He showed us plans to transform the building to a mix of retail, office space and housing. He declined an on camera interview and said "[The lawsuit] comes as a surprise to me. We are actually in the process of procuring our financing and working on marketing the building."

Tutelian could not provide a specific date when construction will start, but other downtown buildings are also facing trouble. Work on the historic Hotel Fresno has stalled because financing is tough to find. One success story is the Hotel Virginia which is now partially open for businesses to move in. Demolishing the Droge is considered a last option. Both the developer and city hope to come to an agreement to save the old building.

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