Hotel Fresno developers ask city for help

FRESNO, Calif.

Efforts to bring the /*Hotel Fresno*/ back to life have been on and off for the past 20 years. The latest plan, being pushed by a successful developer, calls for a combination of apartments and shops in the historic building. But a new request for city help is triggering some concern.

The owners of the old hotel were saddled not only with massive renovation costs, but a series of liens placed by the city on a previous owner. Now the current owners are asking the city to promise to waive those fines and assessments.

"They are asking just for a letter of intent if they resolve the conditions would they be willing to remove the lien. And it seems to me that's a fairly simple question," said Fresno City Manager /*Mark Scott*/.

The letter, indicating forgiveness of about $13,000 in assessments and property taxes and a $50,000 lien, is needed to secure a $200,000 loan the developers need to pay for a property assessment and other things in order to secure the rest of their financing.

But City Council Member /*Lee Brand*/ sees a problem. "They've got back taxes, they've got some liens that haven't been paid, even a utility bill hasn't been paid. Now, if you can't even pay your taxes and your utility bill how are you going to put together a 16.5 million dollar loan.

But developer /*Romi Baghgegian*/ told Action News the liens and assessments were on past owners, and notes he and his partners have already put up close to $3-million for the project. They've also had two successful Downtown developments, the Virginia Hotel and the Mayflower Lofts.

City Manager Mark Scott believes the city isn't risking anything if it helps the developers, because if they can't get the financing, then the city isn't out anything. If they succeed, an eyesore will be restored. "We have a wonderful historic property in town, the Hotel Fresno that we'd love to preserve if possible.

Lee Brand says he'd also like to see it restored, but urges his council members to be cautious. The city council is scheduled to discuss waiving the fines and fees during a closed session on Thursday.

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