Traffic expected to return to Fulton Mall after 50 years

FRESNO, Calif.

"I've balanced everything out, and I feel comfortable saying it's my job to help open that mall," City Council President Steve Brandau told the crowd.

The vote was 5 to 2 and a victory for Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who's pushed to get the mall open to traffic since she was first elected in 2008.

"I'm relieved, I think this is exactly the right thing for Fresno," the mayor said.

Swearengin has lined up $20 million in federal and state grants to pay for the project. But Jill Fields, an opponent of the mayor's plan, argued putting more cars and pollution downtown doesn't make sense.

"I'm disappointed. The idea that cars are an out-of-the-box solution is just ridiculous. We don't need more asphalt," said Fields.

But with cars will come greater access and that's what property owners say they need to get tenants in the city's landmark buildings. Seveak Khatchadourian just bought the Luftenberg building. He owns and is renovating the 90-year-old Pacific Southwest building, and with traffic returning plans to do the same to the nearly-century-old Helm building across the street.

A coffee shop just opened on the ground floor this week, and shop owner Guillermo Moreno believes cars will bring customers.

"I think it's going to provide a tremendous amount of people because right now I solely rely on pedestrian traffic. Once we get the cars in here we could possibly do double the capacity," said Moreno.

The plan is to restore two lanes of two-way traffic on the mall, with wide sidewalks. Once the project clears final environmental hurdles, construction could start next year and finish in 2016.

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