Two parking structures along Clovis Avenue near Tulare Street that were built in 2016 await nearly 1 million square-feet of retail development, part of the Fancher Creek Town Center project. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
Fresno drivers travelling on Clovis Avenue where Tulare Street interjects are used to seeing a large, vacant dirt lot on the east side of the road.
The lot in Southeast Fresno remained dormant for years until 2016 when construction started on two parking structures for the long-awaited Fancher Creek Town Center.
Plans for a shopping center with restaurants and a movie theater were rumored, but there was no concrete word on what exactly was going to go into the development.
But today, infrastructure work is being completed and initial construction for the shopping center is expected to commence in mid 2019. The developers at Lance-Kashian & Co. didn’t just want to quickly prop up a shopping center and call it done, but rather, create a town center that will integrate well with the surrounding neighborhoods and infrastructure.
“The ownership likes to build comprehensively relating to infrastructure. The coordination and final permitting is the reason it takes so long,” said Sal Gonzales, president and chief operating officer for Lance-Kashian & Co.. “Normally it should not take this long, but it is a robust set of utilities.”
The first stages will include sewers and storm drainage, part of which is being led by the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District. There will also be installation of utility lines and the preservation of the Fancher Creek canal that meanders through the area. The final permitting activity is in the works. Sub-contractors have already begun performing their pre-construction inspections.
The town center is expected to cover 970,000 square feet, and according to the Environmental Impact Report, is limited at 1 million square feet. Along with commercial retail shops and restaurants, there will be a Bus Rapid Transit station, a park and a 1.5-mile walking trail along the canal that will eventually connect with the McKenzie Trail. A Fresno Police Department substation will open adjacent to the town center that will begin construction in September.
There is no public word yet on which retailers will go into the town center, but surveys sent to local residents reveal they’d like to see stores including Kohl’s, Target and Trader Joe’s.
No movie theater company has been announced, but it will follow the trend of theatres installing larger, reclining seats. Gonzales said the market is demanding theaters that provide more of an experience for moviegoers, such as offering alcoholic beverages.
The cost of the Fancher Creek Town Center’s first phase will be around $15 million. The total cost for all phases is pegged around $200 million in the next five to 10 years. But, just like the River Park Shopping Center, “it’s not quite done.”
“It’s never done for us,” said Tracy Kashian, vice president of Lance-Kashian & Co., referring to both Fancher Creek and River Park. “We don’t want to sit and stay stagnant. We will continue to make changes, move tenants around and do whatever we have to do to keep up with what Fresno is interested in and wanting.”
Lance-Kashian holds community meetings and block parties to get word on the needs and wants of the communities nearby.
The developers at Lance-Kashian want to make sure that their projects benefit nearby communities. Land scraping done for flood control for the town center has allowed some homeowners nearby to not have a need for flood insurance.
“They [Lance-Kashian] like to feel that they’ve not just built a shopping center, but they’ve added to the community, and to the fabric and quality of life,” Gonzales said. “That’s evident in the economic development that it’s going to lend, the number of jobs, full-time and part-time, construction jobs and the increase in property valuation. With increases in property valuation, there is a higher tax base for the education system, and an increase in retail taxes.”
The walking trail that will go along the Fancher Creek canal will exemplify how the town center will be integrated into the community, instead of just going on top of it.
There are plans to have restaurants along the canal to provide a more comfortable ambiance for diners, and the McKenzie Trail that ends at Clovis Avenue will be extended to follow the canal. It will run almost straight to the shopping center and extend to Highway180 nearby.
Luis Chavez, councilmember for District 5, has been working closely with the developers at Lance-Kashian to bring the visions of Fancher Creek to fruition.
Chavez has contacted the office of Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula to secure state dollars for designating a parkway and nature conservancy at a ponding basin near Tulare and Fowler avenues. Wildlife have made nesting grounds in the area, and the conservancy may be set aside for animals including the Red Tailed Hawk, Muscovy Ducks and Canadian Geese.
Students from Fancher Creek Elementary nearby will be able to take educational field trips to the park and study the wildlife and habitat of the conservancy. Chavez said that this will be a welcome addition to the Southeast Fresno area, which is lacking in park spaces.
Chavez said that all of the business and real estate activity happening in Southeast Fresno has made the area into a “boomtown.”
The town center is the focal point of two other commercial areas for the Fancher Creek master-planned community. The Fancher Creek Business Park at the avenues of Belmont and Fowler, and a neighborhood retail center at Kings Canyon Road and Fowler Avenue called the Village Center, is expected to bring more business to the area.
Chavez said that he regularly speaks to large retailers such as Ikea and Designer Shoe Warehouse, and they tell him that his district is primed for new businesses. A total of 1,072 housing units have been approved for Southeast Fresno in the last 18 months, he said.
“Southeast Fresno has been quietly growing,” Chavez said. “The folks here have the amount of discretionary spending that they need to support those businesses. We’re poised for growth because we are strategically located.”