Downtown Fresno's Future

March 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The future of Downtown Fresno is up for grabs, now that the city's mega-million dollar deal with a giant developer is dead.The revitalization of Downtown Fresno has been a long process and after the collapse of the deal with forest city, it looks like it'll take a lot longer.

The city started doing an annual "Billion Dollar Tour" in 2007, boasting about more than a billion dollars in investments downtown. That includes Chukchansi Park, which opened seven years ago. The stadium was paid for with taxpayer money and was supposed to be the anchor for rehabbing the area.

The city's website shows the baseball stadium as one of six highlights of Downtown Fresno revitalization.

The others include successes like sports town on Kern Street, which was also taxpayer funded. But of the privately funded projects, only the Hotel Virginia is showing any signs of success.

The Hotel Fresno is struggling to get financing insiders think the legacy project is on its last legs, and its developers had to dump the Fresno Falcons, which were supposed to be a big part of the project.

And then there's the south stadium project. 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.

Monday, city officials will meet at City Hall to discuss the future of Downtown Fresno. Meanwhile, business owners down here said they hope their counterparts will take control of the situation and revitalize downtown themselves.

Robert Williams has owned heroes in Downtown Fresno for about two months now. He says business has been good and despite Forest City's decision to pull out of their downtown revitalization project, Williams isn't fazed. "It's not affecting me at this point and I never considered Forest City when I made this investment here in downtown."

With Forest City out, Williams now has some ideas of his own, ones he hopes will get Downtown Fresno back on track. "I think if they can kinda do on Van Ness what they did on Kern Street, I think that will give us a nice visual as they're coming into downtown from 41. Start there and have people that have buildings that need renovating, have them renovated."

Commercial real estate broker Victoria Gonzales agrees. In 2004, city officials designated 84 acres of land, south of Chukchansi Park, to be developed by Forest City into condominiums and businesses. Gonzales said since then, businesses have disappeared because of the uncertainty surrounding forest city's construction plans. "This area we've seen businesses leave and businesses go out of business and property owners who just can't sell their property."

Now, she hopes business owners like Robert Williams will work together and revitalize Downtown Fresno on their own. "At this point, now this provides and opportunity for the property owners here to either put some money into their own property, fix up their properties and then find tenants or sell their properties and let someone else come in."

Again, Monday, Mayor Ashley Swearengin has invited residents to share their ideas on revitalizing downtown. The meeting starts at 1-pm in City Hall Council Chambers and ends at 5pm. It will be open to the public

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