Fresno mayor wants cars on the Fulton Mall

FRESNO, Calif.

"Downtown Fresno is the Fulton area and the Fulton area is Downtown Fresno."

Swearengin is endorsing a plan to restore traffic on the mall. "Traffic would move slowly on a street that meanders through shops and cafes."

The Mayor's comments came at a Friday afternoon news conference at a mall business.

The Mayor believes her preferred option would preserve the mall's pedestrian feel with twenty foot wide sidewalks on each side of the street and retaining most of the art and water features. Swearengin believes letting cars back in is seen as the key to bringing back business.

City Council President Lee Brand agrees, "I think it's essential that we open the mall to restore retail traffic downtown."

The Mayor estimates traffic will bring in business and will nearly double retail sales Downtown Fresno. She estimates the project will cost up to $16 million a year.

Brand isn't quite sure where that will come from. "That will be the challenge, finding the money."

The Mayor is hoping to find Federal grants for at least some of the project. It will be up to the City Council to approve any Fulton Mall plan, and there is some public opposition to opening it up to traffic.

A small group of protestors gathered near the Mayor's press conference. One of them, Kyle Famelos-Schmidt said: "I'm supportive of keeping it pedestrian bikes only."

That was the idea when the mall was built in 1964, but over the years businesses abandoned the mall for shopping centers. Those who want to maintain a pedestrian mall say now is not the time to abandon those who still use it. Famelos-Schmidt cited a recent Fresno State University study which shows there a lot of people are using the mall.

"There ranged from over 4,000 to 6,000 pedestrians that are walking, shopping, families, that are using the Fulton Mall. I think that needs to be built on rather than starting over."

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