Picture of the Old Fresno Water Tower by Wikipedia user by Bobak Ha'Eri.

published on January 28, 2022 - 2:26 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

The Fresno City Council approved a lease agreement with the owner of Downtown Fresno’s Frida Cafe on Thursday.

Talk to utilize the 600 square-foot Old Fresno Water Tower for the coffee shop in Downtown Fresno began in earnest in April 2021, when the owner expected to have a soft opening within a month, according to ABC30.

The lease agreement is for three years with two one-year extension options. The owner would pay $9,252 a year to lease the coffee shop.

Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias said the Water Tower was a frequent target for vandalism during the pandemic. The city made repairs to broken and missing electrical wires and installed water lines. LED lights that can change colors were also added.

“The thinking here is that we enter into a lease agreement to operate an indoor coffee shop the makes the best use of a very small physical space,” said Arias.

Having the property occupied means it can be maintained and the restrooms can be available to the public, Arias said.

Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi expressed hesitancy since the City of Fresno didn’t put out a request for proposals from other potential tenants. City Attorney Doug Sloan said a property that size does not require an RFP to be submitted, but Bredefeld said it would “best practice” to put one out in the future. Both Karbassi and Bredefeld voted in favor of the lease.

Owner Albee Sanchez said at the meeting that preserving historical buildings is important and that operating a business out of the 127-year old structure would help toward that end.

The lease agreement has the business owner maintaining the interior while the City will maintain the exterior and patio areas.

Frida Cafe had been operating out of Downtown Fresno Mexican restaurant and bar Los Panchos going back to September 2020, serving coffee as well as sweet bread. Artwork celebrated famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Sanchez said he could have opened anywhere else with much more ease, but he wanted to be at a historic building.

“I’m making a wholehearted effort to care for these buildings,” said Sanchez. “You finally have someone who is saying we can save our history with this business.”

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