As changes come to Fulton Street property owners face challenges to bring life back to Downtown

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fulton Street has been open for six months, but the corridor is still filled with a dozen empty businesses.

Changes are underway at Los Panchos restaurant along Fulton Street. The restaurant is getting a facelift and an outdoor patio.

"I can only imagine what it will be like when people get out of a game and there is this beautiful outdoor patio and cantina, they're going to get bombarded with people," said contractor Sean Dempsey.

Dempsey, of Earth Builders, is the contractor on the project. He thought about moving his own business downtown but decided against it.

"It can be really, really costly, but your business model has to match it to. At the same time, the building owners need to partner up with us a little bit."

We talked with Craig Scharton of the Downtown Fresno Partnership. He said there are 13 major storefronts that are empty with for lease signs.

"We want retail, restaurants, coffee shops, music clubs, and all those kinds of things that will bring those people down here."

Scharton said he has been talking with owners about the need to get buildings ready.

"I have no problem getting the businesses that are interested, the biggest problem is the property owners that own property aren't moving quickly in getting them ready to get ready."

The other challenge is getting permits in a timely manner. It took Los Panchos seven months to get their permits for outdoor dining and facade.

Mayor Lee Brand said the city took time to approve the plans because of health and safety concerns. Brand said the city is improving technology and changing policy to deal with permits.

"All planning fees and impact fees are reduced by 50-percent, that's to start with."

Rent is also a factor for interested businesses, who will pay on average what rent in Tower District would cost. Advocates said the price will only go up as Fulton Street thrives.
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