A panel of environmental experts made the recommendation on Wednesday night to build a straight street on what's now the Fulton Mall. They believe doing so will increase traffic and help revitalize the area. That decision was backed by at least one business owner and several long time Fresno natives.
"I cannot get customers easily to my front door and as a result it takes almost super heroic efforts through events and marketing to get people in our restaurant," said Craig Scharton.
"I am fearful to ride my bike or walk down the mall at night. This is a public facility that has been in decay for some time," said Mick Marderosian.
Fulton was once open to traffic but in 1964 the landscape changed when it became a pedestrian mall. Mayor Ashley Swearengin argues that allowing cars into the area will boost the downtown economy. But at the public hearing opponents said tearing up the current space will destroy decades of old historical landmarks and valuable art. "It's just a treasured civic resource and it's terribly upsetting to think the Mayor and her staff think it's a good idea of get rid of it," said Jill Fields.
The panel decided the best way to jump start the area is to return to two-way traffic and create about 190 parking spaces to increase access.
City council members will have the final say and they are expected to make a decision this fall. If they do approve the plan then construction could start as early as March 2015.