Old houses could stall new Downtown Fresno development

FRESNO, Calif.

Craig Scharton sees the proposed development by Granville Homes owner Darious Assemi as a major improvement. But the transformation requires the demolition of two homes. While more than a century old, the city's Historic Preservation Commission says they are not historic enough to save.

Neighbor Phil Skei agrees. "These buildings here -- they've had so many modifications over the years and the Historic Preservation Commission agrees they don't really have any historic value at this point."

But the Citizens for the Restoration of L Street group is trying to block the demolition.

Spokesperson Jeanette Jurkovich told Action News, "We don't need to sacrifice preservation for new construction. They are not mutually exclusive."

She believes the project can be modified to keep at least one of the houses, known as the Judge Crichton home.

But Downtown Development Director, Craig Scharton, believes the benefits of the new development outweigh the loss of abandoned buildings. "If someone is just going to come in and knock them down and not do anything, then you can say there's no win for the community. But if you are saying you are going to lose these buildings but end up with 20-plus units of people living downtown, there's got to be some acknowledgment of that adding to the community as well."

Scharton points out two other abandoned, but potentially historic homes on this neighborhood have burned down. "They are not being any more preserved through neglect."

In addition to the new development, the plans call for the developer to assist in the restoration one of the oldest houses on the block, known as "The Alamo House" for its unique Spanish mission style, which is just across the street from the homes to be demolished.

The Fresno city council was set to hear an appeal by the Citizens for the Restoration of L Street, but the developer has asked for a delay until next month to work out some details.

The developer tells us if this project gets tied up in court it could take two or three years to get started, but says otherwise he's ready to break ground next month.

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