Splashed across the front of yesterday’s Bee was a story about the Fulton Mall with the headline, “Time to rip it out?” The story, by the always intrepid George Hostetter, looks forward to a week of meetings (Sept. 25-Oct. 2) aimed at shaping downtown’s future. The Fulton Mall, of course, will be a hot topic.
The story, and its provocative headline, have drawn a lot of the response you’d expect: Downtown is dead. Rip it out. It’s ugly. It’s dirty. People just go to River Park anyway. Etc.
Meanwhile, Craig Scharton, Fresno’s “downtown czar” started another interesting dialog on Mindhub about the “Fulton Mall” name. His point was basically that the indoor mall we know now is what killed the pedestrian mall that Fulton once was. So ours needs a different name that doesn’t include the word “mall.”
On the opposite side of all this is the “Save the Fulton Mall” movement on Facebook, which pre-dates both of these recent developments. It recently had an event to celebrate the mall, and is pushing for more awareness with bright green “Save the Fulton Mall” T-shirts.
Lots of questions from all of this: Should the Fulton Mall be “ripped out” (whatever that means)? If so, what should be there instead. If not, what would you change to make it more lively? Anything? Does it need a new name? If so, what?
And, of course, there’s the long-debated question: Should be it be open up to traffic?
My opinion: There’s nothing in Fresno with more potential than Fulton Mall. So, yes, it should be there. But it needs new life. People will go there, if there’s more to draw them. But most of them are not going to go just out of the goodness of their heart. We need things they can only get downtown, only get on the mall.
A thriving entertainment district would do the trick. A few choice shopping/dining options that aren’t anywhere else in town would too. I’ve seen downtown options and downtown opinions grow greatly in the last few years, Internet trolls be damned, so I know it can work. I would hope there’s a way to preserve the tradition and character of the mall, while still updating it and giving it new drawing power for a new generation.
For a list of upcoming meetings,downtown plans, etc. — check out the Fresno Downtown Plans website.
[photo: Gary Kazanjian / The Bee]