Downtown Revitalization Underway Without Fanfare

FRESNO, Calif.

Fulton Village, the Mayflower Lofts and 64 Fulton are all sweeping away the old look. When the dust settles, downtown will have 18 newly finished projects.

"We've seen a lot of momentum in this particular area, which is what I find most exciting," said developer Reza Assemi – his Broadway Lofts should open in late December, at Broadway and Calaveras.

The deep recession has definitely played a role in expanding downtown, with developers finding property very cheap. But those same developers say City Hall has also played a role, with a new mayor's administration clearing out hurdles that slowed downtown development for decades.

"I honestly can say that I wouldn't have taken this project on had it not been for the new administration," said Assemi.

Mapping out a direction for downtown has been a major focus for Mayor Ashley Swearengin and her Downtown and Community Revitalization department.

Her predecessor, Alan Autry, swung for the fences in downtown, pushing for big projects including a Bass Pro Shop and a riverwalk.

But Swearengin's team is happy to start small and grow.

"Typically, the big guys are not the ones who come in and are the first to put their foot out," said Elliott Balch, the downtown revitalization manager.

The administration is focused on increasing downtown's pitiful contribution to the city's tax base.

The Fulton Mall, for example, only returns 6% of its potential taxes.

"As long as downtown is in the unrevitalized state that it's in, we're not realizing the revenue we could and that means more burden on the rest of the taxpayers," said Balch.

The last piece of the downtown puzzle should be a "Specific Plan", due out in early 2012.

It'll simplify rules for developers, clearing the way to complete the Fresno facelift.

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