Finger pointing continues after Smart and Final pulls out of Central Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A big-box chain feels boxed in, and has now pulled out of a deal with the city of Fresno. It has city officials and a city councilman disagreeing over the future of one blighted stretch of Blackstone Avenue, near Clinton Avenue.

Business brings business, according to Fresno resident Ray Scott.

"The more business we have, the more business we can do," Scott said.

So when Scott saw William Brown selling clothes to raise money for Saints Community Church on Blackstone Avenue Friday afternoon, he stopped, though he says most people go right on through this part of town.

"With the overgrown weeds and other things...this is not what we'd like to see in Fresno," Scott added.

So when we told Scott Smart and Final food and supply store pulled out of the Blackstone and Clinton location, he was disappointed.

City of Fresno Communications Director Mark Standriff says everyone's disappointed.

"The natural reaction is to kind of point fingers and say who's to blame, but the simple truth is that the story of Smart and Final in Fresno is by no means over," Standriff said. "As a matter of fact, Smart and Final has told us, 'We're committed to building a new store in Fresno. We're looking forward to working with them.'"

But Fresno City Councilmember Clint Olivier is still pointing his finger right at his fellow city officials. He says their unreasonable demands, like adding buildings out front to make the location walkable, slowed the process.

"We should have been under construction by now," Olivier said. "I think the city had enough time to put this project through on this very badly needed location in our city. But [it] just took too long. I don't blame the client for saying, 'You know what, this is taking too long; we're going to pursue other opportunities.'"

A Los Angeles-based developer says their company is losing more than $100,000 on the pulled project.

"When we don't have business going on and people pulling out, it doesn't bode well for the city, it doesn't bode well for the community," Scott said.

Olivier says it's a missed opportunity, but the city maintains this is not the final chapter for Smart and Final in Fresno. The developer says he's still hopeful to develop the Blackstone and Clinton site for another user.

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