Local Developer Buys Historic Downtown Fresno Building

December 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Fresno's push to rid downtown of absentee landlords who have let their buildings become eyesores has netted a positive result.The historic Bank of Italy building on the Fulton Mall has just changed hands.

The United Security Bank building on M Street has helped update the look of downtown Fresno. Now a proven developer seeks to blend the new with the old.

The Bank of Italy building on the Fulton Mall is his latest project.

Developer Tom Richards may hold the key to unlocking downtown's potential. Inside the neglected building you'll find mildewed tiles and signs Bank of America once did business here.

Richards bought the building because he believes it's time to bring it back to life. Richards explained, "It's the entry to the

Fulton district, which I believe eventually will become the entertainment mecca for the community."

Through code enforcement the city put pressure on the former owner to sell. The Southern California developer never moved forward on plans to renovate.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin is encouraged by what the sale represents. Swearengin called it, "A vote of confidence from the private sector in what the city is doing to revitalize downtown."

Swearengin says this is the only Fulton Mall building on the National Register of Historic Places. And we must give credit where credit is due. Downtown Revitalization Director Craig Scharton said, "This was the place where the BankAmericard was launched in as a test community, Fresno was a test community, which of course later became VISA."

Tom Richards added, "It's pretty amazing. I have to tell you. You can go into some rooms and still see remnants of Bank of America's operations in 1964."

Like the massive vault which could someday be a place where people spend rather than save their money. Scharton said, "I know for the first couple of potential users, especially for the ground floor, he's been looking at have been entertainment, night life."


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