Fresno’s Blackstone and Shaw avenues intersection is about to see a major development centered on the Vineyard Farmer’s Market and its iconic arbor. Construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of this year. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
A familiar 10-acre lot in Fresno is in the process of being developed into the city’s next major shopping district, with a luxury hotel at the heart of the project.
According to Edward Erganian, principal for Las Vegas-based NAC Development Co., the plan is to turn the long-vacant spot on the northwest corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues into a major hub for retail, housing, hospitality, dining and entertainment.
The Erganian family has owned the property for several years, waiting for the right time to start building, and the Erganian says the time is fast approaching. Phase 1 on the Blackstone and Shaw project is expected to begin during the second quarter of 2021. The first stage of development will focus on an 8,000-square-foot, multi-tenant, mixed-use building, which they are expecting to come in at a cost of $300 per square foot.
The popular Vineyard Farmer’s Market under the site’s arbor will serve as the centerpiece for the project.
“Not a lot of activity has happened until probably six or seven years ago when we started to put together a mixed-use, new organism, live-work-play kind of scene to bring to the Valley — to bring to Fresno something that it doesn’t have,” Erganian said. “We’ve worked really hard on this the last few years and finally, some things are going to happen.”
Real estate development consultant Jerry Mitchell says it’s become a common model to use outdoor shopping attractions such as farmer’s markets to anchor shopping centers and retail hubs. With the onset of the pandemic, outdoor shopping has only become more relevant.
“Retail has been fundamentally changed by the pandemic,” Mitchell said. “And we don’t know what it’s going to look like post-pandemic, but we do know that open air retail like farmer’s markets and possibly similar things has been one of the bright spots that’s doing really well.”
The land has the further benefit of being located in a federal Opportunity Zone, which offers tax advantages. With this in place, businesses and real estate developers can place the profits of unrelated investment into a special fund without paying capital gains taxes until the end of 2026.
While the Blackstone and Shaw project will be located between Fig Garden Village and Fashion Fair Mall, Erganian and Mitchell, both said that they wouldn’t be a competitor with them. They expect their relationship to be symbiotic.
“Fig Garden Village and Fashion Fair are completely different and we’re going to be different as well,” Erganian said. “Because Fig Garden Village and Fashion Fair, they don’t have hotels or multi-family, so I think you’re going to see three fantastic shopping centers, but all feeding off of each other as well.”
Another major component of the Blackstone/Shaw project will be the inclusion of a 150-room hotel and boutique. Acting as a broker for the Erganians and leading the hospitality end of the operation is Roger Story, president of Hotel Motel Specialists, Inc. in Fresno. Story, who’s been in the hotel industry since 1969, expressed his own excitement, saying many people before have tried to develop the land, which he calls the “centerpiece of Fresno.”
Meanwhile, as a vaccine becomes more readily available, he believes the timing is ideal, as there’s pent-up demand in place for more locations to dine, shop and stay as people leave the confines of home and the lockdowns.
“It just took the right chemistry — and we have the right chemistry,” Story said. “And it takes the right timing. And we have both going for us right now.”
While the project may take over a decade to be fully realized, Erganian says businesses will still come in slowly and be able to operate in the meantime.