Fresno Planning Commission tackles Fulton Mall's fate

The Fresno BeeFebruary 4, 2014 

The Fresno Planning Commission Wednesday will consider two options for Fulton Mall.

Rip it up. Or rip it up.

The possibility of restoring the nearly 50-year-old mall apparently is dead.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin will ask the commissioners to make two recommendations to the City Council:

-- Certify an environmental report.

-- Designate the path between Tuolumne and Inyo streets as a street. It's currently designated as open space/pedestrian mall.

Both proposals would pave the way for a return of cars to what was once Fulton Street.

It's no surprise that Swearengin wants car traffic along the Fulton corridor. She has said for more than two years that business produced by cash-flush drivers is key to downtown revitalization.

Option one before the commissioners would return two-way vehicular traffic and retain most of the mall's artwork in the area.

Option two also pitches two-way traffic, but more of the mall's distinctive features would be retained in "vignettes" along the six blocks.

And it's no surprise that the fate of Fulton Mall is moving from bureaucrats' offices to the public arena. Swearengin promised the big decision would come in early 2014.

What's notable is that a third option -- restoration of the mall to the grandeur of its opening on Sept. 1, 1964 -- is not on the table. City officials have long said renovation of the mall is also a possibility.

It's not clear from the staff summary what happened.

Hal Tokmakian, a retired Fresno State planning professor and one-time Fresno County planning chief, said the project's goals were defined so narrowly that restoration never had a chance.

Tokmakian wants the mall restored.

"It is a historic place," Tokmakian said. "It gives Fresno a unique sense of itself. The mall is important for Fresno, the Valley and the United States."

Council Member Oliver Baines, who represents downtown, said he favors a return of cars to Fulton as a way to help downtown.

The staff report said the city must act quickly because of a fall deadline for a nearly $16 million federal grant.

The City Council has final say.

If you go:

What: Fresno Planning Commission/Fulton Mall's future

Where: Fresno City Hall Council Chamber, 2600 Fresno St.

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.

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