Former Fresno JC Penney building owner revealed

FRESNO, California

The new owner has big plans for the building and Downtown Fresno, that include more people living, working and shopping in downtown.

It's not much to look at now, graffiti on the walls, broken glass, crumbling staircases.

But Shay Maghame sees potential in the spacious building with historic accents. He calls it a diamond in the rough, hence the project name "The Diamanti."

In place of the long-unused escalators, he pictures a floor to ceiling skylight for his future retail and residential tenants, in the basement, a parking lot.

Maghame said, "We can build it up, and start from whatever rent the area takes. And in a few years it will be a great place. Everybody loves it. So why let it go to ruin?"

The Los Angeles attorney and real estate broker remembers the Fulton Mall and the JC Penney building in its heyday, while he was a college student in Fresno in the 1960's.

But it's sat empty for decades. Something Rick Roush of Roush Investments has watched from his window -- as the longtime owner of the building directly across from it.

"At the end of the day you have to believe, and you have to trust in your instincts," said Roush. "I believe that a city cannot be a great city without a great downtown."

Roush and several other investors have already poured millions of dollars into renovations to their buildings, paving the way for revitalization. But the one thing they insist needs to happen for the Fulton mall to flourish is opening it up to traffic.

Fresno's Business Development Director Craig Scharton says that's in the works. "As people hear about opening the mall to traffic again, it's bringing investors. In a couple months we hope to announce the funding to restore the street."

The owner wouldn't say when he would break ground but expects the project to be done in two years.

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