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Could this be the big Fulton Mall moment?

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DONALD: The headline at the top of the front page is big and the implications are huge: “Grant to drive Fulton Mall debate.” Bee reporter George Hostetter writes that Fresno landed a $16 million grant today that will help open the long-troubled Fulton Mall to cars. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, will hold a news conference at the mall Friday (updated) to make the official announcement.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin favors restoring traffic to the mall, but in a way that keeps much of the public art on Fulton. The grant may in fact only be good for the mayor’s option. The City Council will get the final decision.

So, Joshua Tehee, what do you think? Could this really be it? After many years of debate, it seems as if the project to open the mall to cars could move forward. What do you think will happen next?

JOSH: I’ll try to be optimistic, and say this is it. It does seem like the kind of catalyst we need to finally get some actual, forward progress instead of the holding pattern that we’ve been in for years. But people are passionate, like super, highly passionate, about the mall and whatever happens it won’t be without a fight. And it will probably be a dirty fight. This is the kind of thing that could end friendships. Also, we need to be asking what happens after … There are those who think the mall was a failure in design (and they have legit proof). I’m still not entirely convinced that traffic (vehicle traffic that is) is the magic bullet. Do you think a walkable pedestrian mall could ever work?

DONALD: I guess I’d describe myself as hopeful. I think of the successful outdoor pedestrian malls in California I frequent, most notably the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz, and I do think that the single-lane, one-way traffic that creeps along that mall does add a certain bustle to the area. (I’m not sure what the configuration of the traffic through Fulton Mall will be, but I’m hoping it’s still minimal compared to a regular thoroughfare.) I wish a no-traffic pedestrian mall could work, but in today’s car culture, I’m not sure it could.

So I support the mayor’s plan. Here’s my question for you, Josh: What do you think the City Council will do? Will Lee Brand vote against the federal money just to pander to his North Fresno constituents who would just as soon see the Fulton Mall razed?

JOSH: Ha! That is the fear, right? The Mayor has always asserted (as have mayors before her, no doubt) that a vibrant downtown is vital to the overall health of the city. The assumption here is that a vibrant Fulton Mall (or Fulton street corridor or whatever it becomes) is vital to the overall health of downtown. If the council doesn’t agree with those assertions, then it becomes a crapshoot, and I would say the odds are against the Mayor’s plans (any of them). Make no mistake, something needs to be done with the mall and soon, if for no other reason than to update the area’s crumbling infrastructure. The idealist in me thinks a restored and renovated pedestrian mall (no traffic) is worth fighting for. The realist in me would be happy with a single-lane, one-way road.

Responses to "Could this be the big Fulton Mall moment?"

Rick says:

Part of the bigger is issue is the area . Just the surrounding area of downtown is upright poverty , section 8 apartments, gang infestation and cockroach infestation, high crimes areas with prostitution and drugs available anywere. Not to mention the amount of youth due to the conditions and mostly on forms of government help to live .Back in the early days it was differant , vibrant and now its dead with the entire culture changed to taco festivals and small crappy shops .The times have changed and so have the people , it attracts what it actually is .

I said it before and i say it again, over 250 million has been spent on the mall since its inception and new another 16 million will do exactly what ? Maybe the city is better saleing to the chuchanci casino like the ball park fiasco deal and all of those great jobs and opportunities .the fact is the planners, developers, caltrans , city workers and business partners known by the council and the mayor will be makeing the money on this one as usual .Do think people really like to drive to downtown fresno without being forced to due to court or jail or other legal matters ? Take the jail and courthouse away and you have Detroit city ! Until the city cleans up the surrounding area and deals with the poverty issues, includeing drugs and gangs and pregnant teens and scummy areas, this is only a crack heads pipe dream .The city can’t deal with the issues in the last 20 years their now and what makes you think they will deal with them in the next 20 years ? The answer is they cant! They don’t have the money or resources to effectively deal with it because the problem is so great .All they can do is crisis management it with minimal police activity and money available to try to deal with it .That is all they can currently do and have been doing .It is not a fix at all and the problems get bigger as you can tell by the growing homeless population in downtown fresno .I sure don’t see the mayor and council members living in downtown or a few blocks near it because they know it is a cesspool. It will still be that same old dirty pig but this time with 16 million dollars worth of colorfull lipstick on it presented as the new and great mall with much to offer !

Janet says:

I”m in much agreement with Rick, and I am also a big supporter of downtown revitalization, for the most part. While appreciating the very diplomatic responses from both Joshua and Donald, I am wondering why I haven’t heard or read anything this past week on any changes to the actual businesses themselves on the mall. All of the discussions have been in regard to the thorough-fare streets and parking…..but what about the draw from the businesses that have been there? We can’t expect to see a thriving Fulton Mall unless it has businesses that drive the populace to go there to shop, dine,or be entertained.

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