Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias said construction at the Hotel Fresno is going according to schedule and could see an opening mid-2021. Photo by Edward Smith
Written by Edward Smith
Before 2020, Downtown Fresno advocates looked forward to millions of dollars worth of development ranging from retail to housing to industrial.
While Covid has kept city permitting and consulting staff at home, projects continue to move forward despite inevitable snags and roadblocks, said Jimmy Cerracchio, president of the Downtown Fresno Partnership.
Cerracchio says that Downtown Fresno could benefit from people leaving the Bay Area or Silicon Valley who may want something more affordable.
Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias said 1% vacancy rates in the area prove there’s a huge demand for housing.
“The more people we have living down here, the more people we have working and entertaining themselves downtown,” Arias said.
As 2020 winds down, here is a status update on a number of projects:
The Park at South Stadium
Overlooking Chukchansi Park at Fulton and Inyo streets will be The Park at South Stadium – a four-story, 54-unit, mixed-use apartment complex with ground floor retail. Developer Mehmet Noyan says they expect to break ground on the project at the end of 2021 with completion expected by 2024. Ten of those units would be considered affordable to renters making 50% of the area’s median income.
The Fresno City Council recently extended a development agreement on the project being done by Noyan Frazier Capital LLC.
Plan reviews by engineers, architects and plan-checkers are being done virtually. In many cases, that is not an efficient way to do things, Noyan said.
Email communication limits the ability to go through major projects step-by-step, he said. People have to wait for responses from one another and work can’t go on until those responses arrive.
As an affordable housing project, South Stadium has encountered multiple layers of requirements to receive grants necessary to pencil out the funding that bridges the gap for units with high construction costs and low rents.
Workers must be paid prevailing wages, and projects may have additional requirements such as mandatory green space. Noyan says that financing for the project has been secured.
North Fulton Square
The project that would transform an entire parking lot at Van Ness Avenue and Tuolumne Streets by Tutelian & Co. received a 60-day extension from the Fresno City Council. The project would include 160 multi-family residential units in five buildings with 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail. The existing CVS drug store location would be relocated to the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Tuolumne Streets.
As of Nov. 19, developer Cliff Tutelian had said he is still waiting on approval from CVS. In 2018 Tutelian received permission to develop city-owned land in the project footprint as long he provided a letter of intent from CVS, which owns portions of the shopping center, as well as proof of financing. Tutelian said at a recent Fresno City Council meeting the pandemic has made securing the necessary documents difficult.
Representatives for Tutelian & Co. were not available for an update. If the necessary documents are provided by the deadline and if another extension isn’t given, the City Council will have to declare the land a surplus in order for the project to move forward, according to Arias. By doing so, the land would have to be offered to public entities for the purpose of housing development. If no public entities express interest, it can then go to bid.
Mural District Lofts
Developer Reza Assemi wanted something different for the 28 units being built at 1740 Van Ness Ave. He wanted smaller units at the Mural District Lofts — something he felt Downtown Fresno lacks.
“I feel there was a need for some units that are very polished, done right but that are also smaller,” said Assemi.
The Mural District Lofts will be a three-story complex with six affordable units at 80% market rate. At the ground floor will be six live/work units built for designers or artists. The studios can also be used as galleries with window frontage perfect for “live, work and show,” said Assemi.
He said he likes to start from scratch on his projects like these with “clean and crisp architecture.”
“It’s going to be a beautiful project,” Assemi said. “It’ll be unique.”
The Fresno Redevelopment Agency is contributing $500,000 to the project, said Arias.
Assemi expects to break ground summer 2021 and be completed by July 2022.
Sun Stereo Warehouse
The nearly century-old Sun Stereo Warehouse on Fulton Street near Inyo Street is being renovated to fit commercial tenants with a nod to the corner’s emerging nightlife. The first floor of the two-story complex will complement its neighbors Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co., Zack’s Brewing and The Modernist, said Reza Assemi.
The ground floor will be for tenants who can engage day use as well as nightlife. Assemi says he has a prospective tenant who has taken a serious interest in most of the space. He is not ready to disclose who it is.
But he said that their interest “is really inspiring considering the time we are in.”
The lobby has a view of the second floor and the back opens up for small events.
The second story will fit approximately 20 units across 10,000 square feet, aimed toward creative, tech, office or marketing tenants.
Co-developer Jamin Brazil, who has a background in tech, took the lead for the look, aesthetic and setup, said Assemi.
Construction on the 26,000-square-foot building should be completed early 2021.
“I’m really excited to continue the momentum that has started there,” said Assemi.
Renovation of the first floor of the historic building at Fulton and Mariposa streets should be completed in three to four months, said building owner Sevak Khatchadourian. Khatchadourian says he has secured three tenants for the seven retail spaces, with expressed interest for another two.
Those tenants will include a café, a restaurant and a clothing store. A patio area along Mariposa Street would also be installed, similar to the one at the Pacific Southwest Building. One prospective tenant would bring a wine bar to the spaces ranging from 700 square feet to 2,000 square feet. Work has been going on for the past 10 months, Khatchadourian said.
The hardest part was finding a contractor who could restore the building to its original design. A previous renovation had removed columns along the storefront. Khatchadourian hired a local contractor to do the work.
“I was lucky to find someone who could work with this kind of craftsmanship,” said Khatchadourian.
Housing on the upper floors may be a possibility in the future, but no start date has been established, he said.
Work to transform Fresno’s eponymous hotel into 74 units of affordable housing is moving along according to schedule, Arias said. Ceilings have been finished and they are halfway through sheetrock on the units. Units range from studios to two-and-three bedroom apartments. A crane at the project site has allowed contractors to bring heavier fixtures such as showers, toilets and tubs to higher levels, Arias said. Paint on the exterior also began last week. The project was originally slated to be completed by mid-2021. Arias expects them to meet that deadline.
The Villages at Broadway
Construction is underway on the former Econo Inn at 1828 Broadway St., slated for a finish by mid-2021. The project will feature 25 affordable studio units and a one-bedroom unit. The Fresno Housing Authority, which is developing the project along with the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health, is doing a complete rehabilitation. Units will have redone bathrooms and kitchenettes. There will be community green space. Members of the Fresno Arts Council put out a call to local artists to select public art to be featured at the property.
“Although the pandemic has had negative ripple effects on almost every aspect of life, it has had minimal impact on the timelines associated with our developments in Downtown Fresno,” said Preston Prince, CEO of Fresno Housing.
Fresno County Jail West Annex
The $101 million project to replace the outdated South Annex of the Fresno County Jail is expected to be completed by spring 2021, said Jordan Scott, public information officer for the County of Fresno. The project that would accommodate 300 beds was originally slated for completion this September, but had been delayed.
Cerracchio with the Downtown Fresno Partnership thinks the project will take longer than the county’s estimate. “It’s a lot of work,” Cerracchio said.
The South Annex, originally built in 1947, has fallen into disrepair, according to Scott.