"The investors that buy like the Hotel Fresno or the Penney's building, they have an interest in history and they have good intentions but a lot of times people buy these buildings there's a lot of fanfare. Two or three years later they are still sitting there, nothing's been done. I think what happens this time, market realities emerge it's just really tough to make these things pencil due to current economics."
But, things are happening. Tutor Perini Corporation, The main contractor for High Speed Rail will be setting up shop in the old PG&E building now known as "The Grand."
A Federal Agency will be taking over another long empty building on the mall. The CVS Pharmacy is planning a new building just north of their present location.
The city's coordinator for downtown development, Craig Scharton sees more positive things happening.
"Revitalization takes a while. Pieces are starting to move in the right direction. It's not ready for the big grand opening party, that's still a few years away we're seeing a lot of new investment come, we're starting to see new tenants materialize, so if you're down here there's a sense that things are heading in the right direction."
Scharton believes the real game changer will be opening the six block long Fulton Mall open to traffic. A study is underway on doing that.
Brand is skeptical opening the mall will change much, but acknowledges progress is being made in small ways.
"I think the success they are having in the cultural arts district where it's starting to getting new people to come downtown, you've got to get people who have disposable income…you got to have people with money."
One of the newer businesses is the Fresno Brewing Company. Manager Michelle Wong says it's brought in people from all over town.
"On a Monday night you'll see anywhere from 40 to a hundred people, depending on what's going on."
It's a small step but even the symbol of a dead downtown, the Hotel Fresno is back up for sale a Chinese investor is said to be interested because the 100 year old building is close to the site of the proposed High Speed Rail station in Downtown Fresno.