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Fulton Focus: Mall’s fate could soon be shown

fulton mallBoth sides of the Fulton Mall debate have kicked into full battle mode in advance of the city council’s vote Thursday night. The save-the-mall crowd hosted a rally/party Saturday in the mall’s free speech area.

Those who support opening the mall to traffic have gone on a social media blitz.

The debate revolves around whether the council should accept the city’s proposal to use a $16 million federal grant (and other matching funds) to reopen the main stretch of Fulton street to traffic (while updating the area’s worn infrastructure). Many (including Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin) believe that an open street would fundamentally change the economics of downtown by creating more marketable commercial spaces. Others believe the mall is a precious piece of historic architecture (and art and design) and should be preserved as such (with much needed upgrades in infrastructure). Still others, council member Sal Quintero for example, question the cost of opening the full six blocks to traffic and wonder if a compromise could be made. Quintero says he will put forth his own alternative at Thursday council meeting; It would open to traffic just the north and south sections of the mall and leave the center to serve as a town square of sort.

I predicted this could be a topic to end friendships, and I’ve seen enough social media posts to know I’m not far off. More than any spot in Fresno, the mall has a strong nostalgic pull and a deep emotional connection for all involved. Thursday’s council chambers will be jam-packed and the debate will be heated.

The council’s vote is important because it will very clearly affect the mall’s shape and form, something that has been debated almost since the mall was put in. More importantly, it will stand as proof of the city’s commitment to reviving its urban core.

And by “city” I mean all involved (the mayor, the council and all of us as citizens). Is there finally the political capital (and public will) to do something about downtown? Can that will and capital be focused into a resembling a consensus? Or will it get passed along to another generation (or at least another mayor)? We will know Thursday night.

My thoughts: The worst thing that could happen now is nothing.

Responses to "Fulton Focus: Mall’s fate could soon be shown"

Eldon Daetweiler says:

The entire process beginning with the Fulton Corridor Specific Plan has been a sham. Even though public opinion and the charrett process produced three options including the restoration of the Fulton Mall, the Mayor wanted a street from day one & the process has proceeded accordingly. I’ll save further comment for the City Council meeting, but no matter how many times you tell or hear a lie it isn’t true. The Fulton Mall has never failed downtown Fresno. Politics & special interests have failed Fresno & the Fulton Mall. If half the energy & funds had been applied to correcting the real issues affecting Downtown, we would be celebrating a thriving downtown, a 50 year birthday for the Fulton Mall, & a Fresno with a positive image instead of being at the top & bottom of all the wrong lists. FYI… Conan’s bobble head ploy wasn’t laughing with Fresno, it was laughing AT Fresno. We just don’t seem to get it!

Dixie Salazar says:

I feel hoodwinked by the city. I’ve gone to numerous meetings and presentations where we were told that public input was being asked for and would be considered. Whey, then was Option 3 just pulled at the last minute? And now pizza and beer is being offered to “supporters” before they go into the council meeting. And today, it was clear in the article in the Bee that the mayor is trying to buy council votes by promising to fix the streets. Why do they feel the need to continually try and trick us into this road, if it’s such a good idea? Aren’t they elected to do the will of the people, not trick the people into doing their will.

Josh Tehee says:

I also wonder about the will of the people. For every person who is in support of preserving the mall, there are obviously those who would love to see it opened to traffic. A good number of those have businesses on the mall. I also venture to guess that another good-sized group couldn’t be made to care one way or the other. They would as soon see the whole of downtown razed to put in a parking lot.

The omission of the third option is odd (especially given the timing) and giving out pizza and beer does feel sort of off. But so does painting the Mayor as some kind of villain. That isn’t accurate or helpful. She’s not looking to trick anyone. At least not in my estimation and in this situation. She’s looking at the overall economic health of the city (along with its political realities) and doing what she thinks is best, based on the information she’s gathered.

It’s sad, but we should be grateful she’s showing any interested in downtown at all.

I do agree with Eldon 100 percent. The mall isn’t a failure of design. It’s a failure of commitment (from the city, its council members, planners, developers and citizens). That failure started even as the mall was being built. Knowing that doesn’t change the reality of the situation, or mean that the mall should be kept as is.

As you can see I am completely conflicted by the whole mess.

I am glad to hear from mall supporters. Thanks for the comments.

JJJJ says:

“there are obviously those who would love to see it opened to traffic. A good number of those have businesses on the mall.”

Care to cite this?

Those proposing the project love to claim that the PROPERTY owners are on board. You know, the absentee landlords who havent paid a dime in maintenance for decades, and may not have set foot on the mall in years.

Those who actually own and operate businesses on the mall? Aside from Craig, I’ve seen nothing to suggest that they were approached or engaged with the process at all.

Josh Tehee says:

Well, there is the Downtown Fresno Partnership, which supports the opening. It’s made up of property (and business owners). You mentioned Craig Scharton. Steve Skibbie (a business liaison at Downtown Fresno Partnership) has been posting picture of mall businesses (and patrons) who favor opening the mall to traffic. I’m pretty certain that they were approached. Now, I can’t say how many were engaged in the process, but my point is that the support does not overwhelmingly fall in one direction or the other (at least not from what I’ve seen).

JJJ says:

I hadnt seen those. I would still prefer certified stats though. Usually during the planning process you conduct polls and such. What percentage of fulton mall businesses (not property owners) support which option.

Either it wasnt done, or the results werent favorable because I havent seen that.

Josh Tehee says:

My point was not to choose sides or say which position has more popular support (I haven’t seen any “official” stats either). I just think its an overstatement to claim the will of the people is somehow being thwarted.

If you are really interested, I would reach out to the Downtown Fresno Partnership. They should either have that data, be able to tell you where to find it, or know if it exists at all.

Rich says:

I have to say everybody talks about preserving or saving the Fulton mall . At one back in Fresno past times, it was the only mall in town, it was the main attraction but all of that has changed.We have a lot of newer and better malls that provide much much more than Fulton can offer .did you all know the over 250 million dollars has been used up for the Fulton mall thus far? What exactly does Fresno have that is worth that amount of money ? An image? Past history ? Until tehy fix the poverty and crime issues in the surrounding area, it is a no go for me . You don’t build a 12 million dollar house in the middle of a pig farm do you? Throwing more money at it is waste of more money , if 250 million can’t do , what makes you think another 250 million can? Hell, Fresno can’t even afford to build and take care of a baseball park that had all of these attached drams and thoughts and in the end a local Indian casino had to take it over !Also a lot of those old downtown buildings are full of hazardous waste, like asbestos .Its cheaper to keep those buildings standing than to tear them down die to the clean up cost and hazardous waste issues .Aslo the issue of makeing those buildings up to current code .That is why a lot of those older buildings are unoccupied or have very few people using them , The Rowell building is one of them , Ever been to the upper floors and took a look , they are empty and the place is falling apart ? (Fresno attorney sues historic Rowell Building owners over disabled access jan 2014) .
The only one making money is the developers, city council and associates, planners,builders ,etc,etc . Originally it was a road so they changed it now they want to change it back , wasting more and more money .They build that road , it means i can drive by even faster to get out oft here .If it wasn’t for the County Jail and Court House downtown would be 6 foot under and there wouldn’t be this conversation about Fulton Mall . What is the percentage of people living in Fresno using the Fulton Mall today compared to those who use other local malls?This is the question that sould be asked as were to put the money and go ?

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