Rendering of the North Fulton Square project

published on February 5, 2021 - 1:03 PM
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An agreement between the City of Fresno and Tutelian Co. to develop a downtown lot has expired. But even though the exclusive negotiating agreement between the City and Tutelian has ended, talks continue between the Downtown developer and CVS.

Thursday was the last day for developer Cliff Tutelian to bring before the City Council documents they had said were necessary in order to grant a fifth extension for the North Fulton Square project.

City council members had called for Tutelian to provide letters of intent from CVS to move forward with the project, as well as proof of available financing and architectural drawings. Such drawings exist and have been submitted to the City for 30,000 square feet of commercial and residential space between Van Ness Avenue and Fulton Street south of Tuolumne Street.

Cliff Tutelian said he also has financing secured. The last piece of the puzzle is getting CVS to agree  to the arrangement.

“Our talks continue with CVS,” Tutelian said. “They’re going to have to make a decision as to what side of history they want to be on.”

Tutelian said the project is key to Downtown revitalization as it brings housing and commercial space to the region.

A media request to CVS was not returned by press time.

“Their involvement is important because this is what generates economic growth,” Tutelian said. “This is what is going to contribute to Downtown Fresno’s growth and reputation.”

The scope of the project spans west from Van Ness Avenue to a City-owned parking by the Hotel Fresno. The project would have developed land from three different owners, including the Fresno Housing Authority, the City of Fresno and CVS, said Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias.

The expiration of the deal between Tutelian Co. and the City does not preclude Tutelian’s ability to develop other portions of the project. If Tutelian and CVS were able to come to an agreement to develop the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Tuolomne Street, the project could still move forward.

CVS owns the parking lot from Van Ness Avenue to Fulton Street. The project would relocate the CVS to the northeast corner of the lot.

The only involvement from the City of Fresno, in that case, would be to allow for the removal of a right-of-way, which Arias said he was not opposed to.

What does change is Tutelian’s access to City land that is now a parking lot near Hotel Fresno.

The expiration of the exclusive negotiating agreement means that in order for Tutelian to develop the parking lot, the City would have to declare the property a surplus. Housing authorities as well as nonprofits would then have right of first refusal to develop it for affordable housing. It would then have to go to bid, Arias said.

Arias doesn’t see the City Council declaring the property a surplus as it generates revenue for the City.

“Why would we take a revenue-generating parking lot offline years before they can demonstrate that they can turn it?” he said.

Arias had been opposed to the exclusive negotiating agreement between Tutelian Co. and the City of Fresno, calling it “the first time one private property owner was given exclusive right to develop another property owner’s property.”

“We all support the vision of more housing, we just didn’t find an exclusive negotiating agreement to be a successful tool to bring the project forward,” Arias.

Tutelian said the North Fulton Square project is still moving and he is exploring all avenues to make it happen. Talks between him, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and Fresno City Council members have encouraged him.

“They made it clear they believe in the project,” Tutelian said. “Everyone thinks the concept is awesome and it adds to the revitalization effort for Downtown Fresno.”

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