Tower district residents fighting for park to replace unused property

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The City of Fresno wants to sell the property and other unused pieces of land to fund construction of a new police substation in Northwest Fresno, but neighbors want a park to take its place. (KFSN)

The movement to get more park space in Fresno now targets the Tower District.

One building started out as a fire station and was more recently used as a police substation. But now the city wants to sell the property and other unused pieces of city land to fund construction of a new police substation in Northwest Fresno.

But some Tower District residents say not so fast and argue it could be a good place for a park. The 'For Sale' sign is about to go up on an unused piece of city property. But instead of selling it to a developer, Kiel Schmidt thinks it would be a good place to put a city park.

"I grew up there around the corner on Dudley," he said. "My youth there, we didn't have parks. We played in the canal, kind of ran amuck around in the streets. So I think it would be good for the neighborhood, the kids in the neighborhood as well as some senior citizens to have some green space to spend time in."

But the city sees the property as a potential source of revenue to help finance construction of a new police substation in northwest Fresno.

City council member Esmerelda Soria thinks the park idea is worth considering.

"I think it's a great idea, and I think the timing is perfect," she said. "And the city is going through its parks master plan."

However, whenever the idea of a new park comes up, the city administration notes there's not money to operate it. Soria says that's a valid concern.

"That's a fair answer, but I don't think it's a complete answer," she said. "I think what we need to be doing is looking at the idea and seeing the cost of it."

So, that's what Kiel is doing. He's gathering information from the neighborhood, getting an idea if residents want a park, and looking for ways to fund it.

The Tower District Design and Review Committee is surveying residents, so Kiel says it's too soon to say yes or no to the idea.

"I hear no and I don't stop at that," he said. "I want to see if there are ways to make it happen."

Park supporters say it's a unique opportunity to have a piece of city property available in a neighborhood, so a park could be built without condemning any property. But there is the cost of demolishing the building.

And it's not clear yet if the neighborhood wants a park, which can be fun, but also attract problems. It will be up to the city council to decide.

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