Saving Granite Park

July 28, 2009 10:38:45 PM PDT
The new owners of Granite Park came to Fresno, to hear what role the city plans on taking to save the troubled development.Fresno City Manager Andy Souza and the lending group which owns Granite Park called Tuesday's talks encouraging.

Officials with OMNI Financial held their first face-to-face meeting with Fresno city leaders. They said the two sides shared similar thoughts.

OMNI Financial Attorney Hanno Powell said, "The original vision is exactly what the city wants and so if we can get back to that vision with the ballparks and perhaps a tournament venue surrounded by restaurants ? then I think both sides win."

Dead trees now line an abandoned area of the Granite Park property. The city of Fresno intends to breathe new life into these run-down ball fields when it takes over the 18 acres of green space by late September.

Souza said, "We'll take a look at how do we best retrofit that now that it's in such disrepair. How do we bring that back up to usable green space."

But the city is also looking at ways to pay off a five-million dollar loan it guaranteed with Bank of the West.

"It could be anything from something similar to what we did with the Met where we just pay it internally and manage for a short period of time or we may be able to work an arrangement where we just step in to the shoes of the foundation and just make those payments," said Souza.

Skaters have taken over planned office space but OMNI Financial believes Granite Park can still be salvaged.

Hanno said, "It's a tough economy but the vision is in place. Perhaps the investors will come back."

Scott Patton has been refurbishing one of the diamonds for occasional use. He hopes the city can record a save.

Patton said, "If they can stick by their game plan and help us out. Little league is huge ? Youth softball. You need kids back out here playing."

Developer Milt Barbis still owns parcels at Granite Park but Andy Souza says the city is dealing only with OMNI, which owns the bulk of the property.

Businessman Kirk Vartanian opened a nightclub there but his possible future involvement was not discussed.

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