published on August 19, 2022 - 1:59 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

Downtown Fresno — and Fresno in general — has come back in a big way after COVID-19.

That’s the result of a new study of visitor activity for dozens of large and medium-sized downtowns in the U.S.

The study, “The Death of Downtown? Pandemic Recovery Trajectories across 62 North American Cities” was conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at University of California, Berkeley. It uses mobile phone data to compare downtown area visits as of June 6 of this year to 2019.

Downtown Fresno had a 108% increase in visitors in that period, ranking it third among medium-sized cities. For the City of Fresno as a whole, there was a 132% increase, ranking it second.

The study found the key factors influencing recovery rates for downtowns were population and business density, the way people commute to work and presence of industry sectors supporting remote work.

Downtown Salt Lake City had the strongest resurgence of mid-sized downtowns at 155%, with Bakersfield No. 2 at 117% and Downtown Fresno third. For entire cities, Bakersfield came in first with 139%, followed by Fresno in second and El Paso, Texas, at third with 120%.

Jazzmine Young, program manager with the Downtown Fresno Partnership, said Fresno’s results affirmed what they have known anecdotally for some time.

“It was something we were kind of aware of,” she said. “It’s nice to have some research behind it.”

She said downtown businesses were quick to adapt in the thick of the pandemic, adopting measures such as online ordering to remain viable. Staff at the Downtown Fresno Partnership, an improvement district funded by property owners that helps market and maintain the downtown core, were only aware of four businesses that closed in the first year of COVID-19, she said.

Young added that Downtown Fresno is quickly becoming a hub for young, creative entrepreneurs who are graduating from being sidewalk vendors to brick-and-mortar business owners. The Brewery District is also a very strong anchor that is growing rapidly.

Downtown property owners felt confident enough in the trajectory under the Downtown Fresno Partnership to continue the self-imposed tax funding the organization by a 84.3% vote — extending it another 10 years.

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