Fulton Mall offered $15.9 million federal grant

September 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
For Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin the words of US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx signaled a green light for turning the Fulton Mall into the Fulton Corridor.

"I want you to know that today is a new beginning for your central business district."

Foxx announced Fresno would receive a $15.9 million Federal "Tiger" grant. Congressman Jim Costa helped the city get the money to turn the pedestrian mall back into a street.

"Cars bring people, people bring businesses and businesses bring jobs." Costa said.

Fulton Street was turned into the mall back in 1964. It was done with a lot of fanfare, and was supposed to save Downtown Fresno from the shopping malls in North Fresno. Now, taking out the mall is seen as the key to a revival.

"This is the place that Fresno started, it's our historic main street and there is a terrific market for urban centers, we see it in every other great downtown in America, Fresno is no exception," Swearengin said.

Fulton Mall shop owners are divided on the issue. Rallph Atikian owns a shoe repair shop and antique store, "There's 40,000 people working downtown and they don't come over here, we need traffic we want them to come and shop. " Bertha Hererra runs a variety store in the Fulton Mall when asked, would it be better for business if cars could drive by she said, "I don't think so, no, not at all."

But the crowd at the ceremony was enthusiastic. There was just one visible protestor.

Abe Jones sat on the clock tower with a cardboard sign opposing the plan to put traffic on the mall.

"I love the Fulton Mall it makes me really sad to see the mayor wants to tear everything out and put a road in. It just breaks my heart really," Jones said.

While the money is being offered, it will be up to the city council to accept it. The leading mall removal critic, Council Member Lee Brand tells said, "It's a misallocation of funds. It faces a tough fight."

In addition to the Federal funds, the mayor is counting on $2 million in county Measure C Funds and $2 million in state fund. She says it should not cost the city anything, and she thinks the naysayers can be swayed.

"Ultimately I think they will see the wisdom of making change here because the status quo just isn't good for anyone." The City Council is expected to decide whether to accept the federal funds for the Fulton Mall sometime early next year.


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