Underground search of Fresno's Fulton Mall

FRESNO, Calif.

Michael Feist explained, "What its showing me is this is a very deep structure its approaching 18 to 20 feet."

Scanning the screen of a ground penetrating radar unit Michael Feist and his crew are slowly rolling along the mall revealing what's under their feet.

Feist added, "We are locating all of the basements and underground vaults that are on the mall."

They have to find and mark these underground features because if the pedestrian mall is opened to traffic, there are plans for landscaping and fountains in the sidewalk areas.

"We don't want to put a fountain in and have it flood something that might lead it into an existing building," explained Feist.

That could happen because many of the basements extend beyond the outside walls of the buildings along the mall.

In addition, after the original street was torn up in the early 1960's utility vaults and metal reinforcing rods were placed underground before the mall was laid down. Feist says the records of where they are located aren't always precise.

Feist said, "What we are finding is in some areas they were correct, right on the money, and others they are two feet here, one foot there."

Even though the city council has yet to decide if the mall will be removed this preliminary work is being done to help get an idea of how much the project will cost. Right now the estimate is about $20 million.

Mall antique shop owner Ralph Ataikian thinks it will be money well spent.

"We need a change," said Ataikian. "Old days are gone and a new generation wants to come here and start spending money and start having fun."

The decision on whether this underground survey and other planning work on the mall pays off is expected to be decided by the Fresno City Council on Thursday night.

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