A Myth Busting Tour of the Fulton Mall: The Recap

Posted by Kim Leonard

Yellow Umbrella August 1

On Saturday I led a tour of the Fulton Mall that focused on dispelling myths. I was a little nervous, even though I lead downtown tours every month. This one was a little different. This one had the potential of turning kinda, well, gnarly. It’s no secret that Fulton Street construction is a hot issue and people tend to get really impassioned about it. With passion, sometimes manners are chucked out the window, so I went in prepared for whatever.

The great news was that it was a fabulous group, armed with great questions and patience when I didn’t have the answer for them right at the moment. There was only one person with a GoPro camera discreetly hidden at their hip so I didn’t have to go out of my comfort zone and handle any *shudder* confrontation.

I kept a notepad on hand in case questions came up that I didn’t have answers to, and I encouraged all who participated to take what I said, look through the research I gave them (Yep, there were goodie bags for everyone!) and take a tour with the Downtown Fresno Coalition to get the other side of the story.

I’d promised my group that I would post the myths we’d busted on the blog, along with answers to their questions. If you didn’t make it to the tour but have questions about the process, the design- anything really, feel free to e-mail me at info@downtownfresno.org and I’ll work my hardest at finding the answer through our contacts here at the Partnership.

Myth #1

There’s no money to fund this project!

The TIGER Grant covers 15.8 million of the estimated total of $20 million. So where does that extra $4.2 Million come from? Measure C dollars and grants from private sector organizations. Like ours. Our property owners have set aside $250,000 to go toward the project. No new taxes will be necessary for this project. Source: downtownfresno.org & www.fresno.gov

The next question asked when we busted this myth was “If over budget, where will we see cuts?” and you can find an itemized list in the City’s bid.

Myth #2

The existing businesses will be forced to close during construction.

Actually, this is where we come in. We’ve already started holding monthly meetings for Fulton Mall businesses to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to Fulton Street construction. These meetings are open to the public, however, we don’t widely publicize them like we do our other programs because they are for the businesses, not the public. That said, if you’re filled with a burning desire to attend these meetings (& please do so respectfully as an observer) you can contact Craig Scharton and he’ll fill you in on the details.

OFB Logo - Orange Background

This part of our program is called Open for Business and its main goal is to see to it that every business will be open every day during construction, no matter what phase of construction is happening directly in front of their door.

Myth #3

They’re ripping out the Art!

We’ve actually heard a few different versions of this and they range from “They’re gonna melt it down and use it to pay for construction!” to “They’re gonna auction it off” and “It’ll end up in a North Fresno back yard!” Let me say this one time just to make sure we’re all clear on this:

ALL OF THE ART IS STAYING DOWNTOWN, RIGHT HERE ON FULTON.

So now that you’ve got that, here’s what’s going to happen. The collection is in great hands, the restoration process being overseen by a committee that includes art consultants, artists, City staff, and community partners. This quote from an article in Fresno State’s The Collegian by our Fulton Mall Manager Craig Scharton says it perfectly:

“All of the art will be removed, restored and then replaced,” Scharton said. “They are using a $1.5 million from the grant that will go toward restoration. If you love our Downtown art, this is the best thing that’s ever happened.”

If you love the nitty gritty details, you can actually review the state of each art piece yourself starting on page 183 of the Alternatives Analysis. Page 213 will even give you a view of the impact of relocation and recommendation for each piece. To follow along with the whole process, like Fulton Street Art Collection on Facebook. The intention is to make this part of the process as transparent as possible, our art collection is serious business and people are rightfully concerned about its welfare.

Myth # 4

This is Ashley’s pet project. No one else cares!

Well, first of all, internet trolls, it’s Mayor Swearengin. And you’re right. It is her pet project. Just like the Better Blackstone project. And all of the other projects she’s involved in. I guess you could say that as mayor, the whole city is her pet project.

Furthermore, there’s been $65 million in private sector investments since the February 2014 vote to turn the pedestrian mall back into a street. Obviously other people are taking notice and care about that decision.

Myth #5

The buildings will be bulldozed too!

No. Just no. Buildings are privately owned, the Mall is owned by the City.

Myth #6

They should just put in a Wal Mart. Or Dave and Buster’s. Or Ikea. Or an outlet mall. That would save the mall!

There is no “they.” There is no Dana. There is only Zuul. The onus isn’t on the City, or Downtown Fresno Partnership, or anyone else to fork out the cash to lure your favorite suburban chain to downtown. But if you’re interested, you, a private sector citizen, could totally become a franchisee and give it a go.

Myth #7

This is just a silver bullet.

Absolutely not. This is one step toward the goal of revitalization, but an essential one. Pedestrian malls have a ridiculous failure rate. You can read all about that in this report one of our SC2 Fellows compiled and this one. 90% of cities that remove malls see “significant improvements in occupancy rates, retail sales, property values, and private sector investment in the downtown area” when streets are restored. Source: DowntownFresno.org


We had a few questions come up on the tour that I didn’t have answers to, or questions that popped up and were e-mailed to me after the fact:

What percentage of downtown property owners are local vs out of town?

Okay, math scares me, but I looked at our master list and out of 307 properties listed, 250 of those properties are locally owned.

That doesn’t account for property owners having multiple buildings, and a good chunk of those are City and County, but it does give a general idea.

More importantly, though, is that you can’t generalize a property owner by their location. We have some who live out of town who we are in contact with weekly, come to our board meetings, frequently visit their sites and have excellent relationships with their tenants. We have some who live 5 miles away that we never see. A good property owner is going to be great regardless of living in the building or 300 miles away, so local vs. non-local is not a reliable indicator of engagement in downtown.

What is the difference between the Mariposa Plaza Activation and the Fulton Street Project?

Mariposa Plaza has received an NEA Our Town Grant, and the process for design is still in the public-outreach phase. It ultimately fits into the Fulton Street project because it is located right in the middle of the 6 block stretch from Tuolumne to Inyo, but the two projects have separate funding and timelines.


Are there any other myths you’d like to see busted? Questions you have regarding Fulton Street construction that aren’t answered here? E-mail me and I’ll address them- as long as you’re nice and not an internet troll.

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