Longtime dreams of creating a public market in downtown Fresno to showcase local produce and restaurants are on their way to becoming reality.
Bank of America awarded the Downtown Fresno Foundation a $25,000 grant to start work on a feasibility and business plan that will lay out more details of the project and help attract the money needed to launch the $20 million project, Mayor Ashley Swearengin announced during a news conference Thursday morning.
The Fresno Public Market – something akin to the famous Pike Street Market in Seattle – is planned for the old Gottschalks building near Inyo and Van Ness avenues, where Swearengin revealed the early plans with developers Mehmet Noyan and Terance Frazier; Mark Riley, the bank’s market president; architect Paul Halajian; and members of the foundation.
“We started long ago dreaming about what it would be like to every single day be able to come to this place and see 30 or 40 local food vendors, local restaurants, the best of everything we grow here in the Central San Joaquin Valley put on display for tourists, for visitors, for Fresnans to come and shop and enjoy just hanging out,” Swearengin said.
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The goal is to transform the aging building, which is about 100 years old, into a bustling market and food hall with local food vendors and restaurants. It would also be a business incubator with a commercial kitchen, education component and cold storage to help people who want to start their own businesses.
This is a transformative project because it creates jobs and showcases Fresno as a city that feeds our nation.
Gretchen Moore, executive director of the Downtown Fresno Foundation
Swearengin likened the project to similar public markets that local leaders have visited together or studied, including Cleveland’s West Side Market and Grand Rapids Downtown Market in Michigan. The mayor recalls grabbing a bag of produce in Cleveland to read where the food was from, and it said “Fresno, Calif.” That fueled her passion to work harder on opening a public market at home.
“This is a transformative project because it creates jobs and showcases Fresno as a city that feeds our nation,” said Gretchen Moore, executive director of the foundation.
While the mayor did not have an exact number of how many jobs would be created, Craig Scharton, a Fulton Street business owner and consultant to the Downtown Fresno Partnership, said that number could be as many as 300 people, which is what the Grand Rapids market employs.
Noyan will be the developer. The market is part of a larger plan he has with Frazier to revitalize the south end of Fulton Street into a residential and commercial complex. They see 200 residential units around Chukchansi Stadium and the conversion of another building into an entertainment venue.
“But this is the catalyst,” Noyan said.
The business plan is expected to be finished by the end of the year. A fundraising campaign will then begin over the next six months to a year before construction starts. Noyan expects much of the money to come from private investors, but there are grants available.
“We view this as the anchor for downtown revitalization. This is the thing that will attract people from all over the country so we can showcase the products that we grow here.”