Commercial Hope For Downtown Sans Forest City

March 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Now that Forest City has pulled its mega-million dollar redevelopment project out of downtown Fresno "what's next" for the city is a lot more hazy.Some believe downtown could still get that different look even without a big developer. Commercial real estate broker Victoria Gonzales has a handful of clients whose business plans

for growth and expansion over the last 5 years stalled out.

Many, like this bike shop, were forced to move because the uncertainty surrounding Forest City's construction plans.

"We've seen business leave, and businesses go out of business and property owners who can't sell their properties," she said.

Gonzales said the signs of a nearly abandoned commercial district are everywhere.

In 2004 Fresno city officials gave up 85-acres of land, south of Chukchansi Park, to be developed by Forest City into condominiums and businesses.

However, in part to the devastating economy, the Cleveland, Ohio-based company withdrew its commitment to the city Friday.

Thrift store owner Jedda Commins is happy Forest City is moving on. Sales in this second-hand store have fallen over the last few years. Commins said that's because downtown needs a major over-haul to give the area a new look and lure in more shoppers.

This bargain-basement dealer foresees growth.

"If people renovate their businesses and do something about getting people downtown, advertise it," said Commins.

Gonzales supports revitalizing downtown and at one time Forest City's project. "It should have broken ground a couple years ago and maybe we could have seen some changes here," she said.

Now this commercial broker hopes with a little support from the city and community, area business owners should be able to turn these neglected lots into prime real estate.

"We can look at revitalizing this area of downtown one property at a time," said Gonzales.

Monday's meeting starts at 1-pm in city hall chambers and ends at 5. It is open to the public. City officials hope this meeting will begin a new strategic process on continual and incremental improvements downtown.

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