When the City of Fresno holds its block party and parade on Oct. 21 to mark the completion of renovations to downtown’s Fulton Street, Gaby DeAlba said her family will be ready.
At Jalisco Jewelers, where she works as a supervisor, plans are to clean, paint and put up new tile on the business’ storefront, as well as to clean the electric sign out front – along with making sure it still works.
And similar plans are in place to spruce up two of neighboring businesses her family owns, Passions Boutique and DeAlba Travel.
The family also owns a neighboring Mexican restaurant, Los Panchos, but the plans are more ambitious there, as construction crews are working renovate the side of the building facing Fulton Street and a create patio seating for up 40 diners before the block party, DeAlba said.
As part of that, the construction crew also is working to determine if the old building’s face at Fulton Street and Tulare Avenue can have its façade removed to reveal the original building architecture under it.
If they can restore the front of Los Panchos, the business will be a step ahead in the next phase of efforts to elevate the desirability of the former Fulton Mall for shoppers and other visitors.
“Oh, I think it looks fantastic. We are getting great reviews from everyone. Even people who were dubious about the project think it’s great,” Craig Scharton said of the renovations to the shopping district from a pedestrian mall to an area with streets for cars and sidewalks for pedestrians.
As a result, the six-block, downtown Fresno shopping district has been renamed “Fulton Street.”
Scharton, interim president and CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, which promotes downtown commerce and revitalization, said that over the past week representatives from his office met block by block with Fulton Street business operators to discuss what they can do to fix up their storefront before the Fulton Street Party on Oct. 21.”
But once that event is over and the hoopla of Fulton Street reopening is done, Scharton said work will begin on the next effort to further spruce up the street – trying to convince building owners to remove facades on the storefronts to reveal the architecture under them.
In and interview earlier this year, Scharton said the facades on Fulton Street went up mostly in the 1960s, when a movement swept the country to modernize” buildings by covering up their original ornate architecture – some dating back to the turn of the century – with flat facades.
“It was the age of going to the moon and the Jetsons and Tomorrowland, and so they felt left behind and they wanted to keep up with modern shopping centers, so they covered up their oldness,” Scharton said in the interview as he walked down Fulton Street pointing out sections of flat walls above storefronts hiding the original ornate windows and brickwork.
“These buildings are old, and they have the historical value,” said Hakk Williams, who has worked on Fulton Street 25 years, currently as the manager of a dress shop.
Walking outside his shop, he pointed to the Helm Building across the street, noting the facades over its storefronts.
“They destroyed the actual architectural designs of the buildings. I wish they brought back the original looks of the buildings,” Williams said, noting this isn’t something the merchants leasing space can do but rather, the responsibility falls on the owners of the buildings.
“Fixing up the fronts of businesses has been under discussion for awhile, but it’s not likely to happen soon, because business is so slow,” so it will be some time before owners can put much money into renovating their storefronts and stripping off building facades, DeAlba said.
“But I know the idea is there, and I know the business owners here are working on that.”
The Downtown Fresno Partnership has obtained some small grants to help businesses on Fulton Street renovate their storefronts, but such grants offering higher financial assistance to help private development are hard to come by, Scharton said.
“It’s not like a mall where somebody owns everything and can get everything done at once,” he said, adding that owners of Fulton Street businesses will do whatever improvements they want one at a time.
Scharton said he hopes city officials will offer block grants to fix up the storefronts on Fulton Street once they realize the aesthetic improvements could draw more people downtown and promote added commerce there.
“It took Pasadena 20 years to spruce up its old town neighborhoods,” said Scharton, adding that he hopes Fulton Street building owners will realize that nicer-looking buildings draw the best tenants and rents.
Photo above by David Castellon
Gaby DeAlba, whose family owns four neighboring businesses on Fulton Street, shows the area where a patio for diners will be built next to her uncle’s business, Los Panchos Mexican Restaurant and Cantina. Plans are to have the work done before the city of Fresno holds a parade and block party on Oct. 21 to celebrate completed renovations on Fulton Street.
To find out more about the Fulton Street Party on October 21, visit the Downtown Fresno Partnership website at www.downtownfresno.org.
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