Renovation work on the Rowell Building in downtown Fresno has moved from the inside out.
Exterior scaffolding is up along the Van Ness Avenue side of the 105-year-old landmark at Tulare Street and the green window awnings were removed to prepare the brick office building for cleaning and new windows. The ground floor and sidewalk are fenced off.
Fresno developer Ed Kashian bought the historic building, across from the Fresno County Courthouse, in 2014 to answer then-Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s call for private investment in the heart of the city. Since then, he has quietly worked on installing new footings to help support elevators and fire escapes in the building and on stripping the six-level interior down to the concrete floors and beams.
We completed demolition of the inside of the building and hauled 280 tons of toxic material away.
Developer Ed Kashian, who is renovating the Rowell Building
“After investigating, we discovered an enormous amount of toxic material I was concerned about,” Kashian said from his River Park office. “We completed demolition of the inside of the building and hauled 280 tons of toxic material away.”
Asbestos is always a concern, he said, but the worst issue was lead paint.
The Renaissance Revival-style building, built in 1912, is named for Chester A. Rowell, a leading figure in Fresno in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rowell was a physician who established the Fresno Republican newspaper in 1876. He later served in the state Senate and as a regent for the University of California, and was the mayor of Fresno when he died as the building was under construction.
At the time of its completion in 1913, the Rowell Building reportedly was the tallest building in Fresno and the first with steel framing. The structure is on the local Register of Historic Resources.
The plan is to restore the outside of the building to its original look and to rebuild the inside, with new elevators, for office use. The floors can be split between four different tenants or can house a single one, Kashian said. A rooftop garden is also planned along with energy efficient and environmentally friendly design elements to achieve LEED platinum certification – Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design’s highest rating recognizing sustainable building strategies and practices.
Offices are expected to be ready in early 2018.
Kashian, in recent months, purchased the empty lot and adjacent single-story brick building with distinguished arches across the street, on Van Ness Avenue, to use as staging areas for the Rowell construction. He plans to renovate the small building in the future.
The Rowell offices are expected to be ready by early 2018. Government agencies, engineering firms and private business owners have expressed interest in leasing space, Kashian said.
While the developer is known for building the River Park office and shopping centers in northeast Fresno, he has owned property in downtown Fresno since 1950. Along with the Rowell Building and the Van Ness Avenue properties, Kashian expects to close soon on the purchase of the Mariposa Street office building next to the Fresno Police Department.
High-quality office space is in demand, Kashian said. Some downtown offices, particularly those owned by the government, are in bad condition with rodents and bad odors, he said.
“To me, that’s unacceptable,” Kashian said, “but then again, I don’t have budget constraints.”