Downtown Clovis, known for its old-fashioned Western charm, could soon be getting a piece of the urban lifestyle: residential lofts with ground-floor shops and offices.
Granville Homes is proposing to build 35 loft-type condominiums above commercial and office space at the site of the old Clovis City Hall and the former state Department of Motor Vehicles office. A plaza at the front of the project would serve as an entryway into downtown Clovis where Bullard and Pollasky avenues meet.
The Clovis City Council on Monday considered a redevelopment agreement that would provide $3 million in city assistance to help Granville's project. But in a last-minute pitch, developer Darius Assemi proposed changes to the city's assistance package that would lower his costs for city fees and other expenses and save the redevelopment agency money as well. The City Council voted to defer the matter for 60 days so staff could study Assemi's proposed changes.
Over the last several years, loft developments have sprouted in Fresno's uptown area, in the city's cultural arts district north of the Fulton Mall. Most have been developed by members of the Assemi family, which also controls Granville Homes.
Granville's project would be Clovis' first mixed-use loft-type development -- and the concept is being greeted coolly by some.
Mayor Harry Armstrong, who did not attend Monday's meeting, said in an interview that he is not sure the idea is right for downtown Clovis because the area functions pretty well now.
"I look at downtown and we have all these new people who want to change it," he said. "To make it become a reality, I have mixed emotions."
Council Member Lynne Ashbeck, however, said she thinks it's a project that makes sense. She said friends who are empty-nesters have asked her for updates because they are interested in moving there.
"It's an interesting vision for downtown," she said. "I think having a little more commercial was probably the original intent, but the plaza will definitely be a community asset."
The city had sought proposals to develop the property, and in July 2009 entered exclusive negotiations with Granville. The city's vision was of an upscale project that would attract artists, businesspeople and empty nesters.
The $9 million project is proposed for land owned by the city -- and currently exempt from property taxes. Granville would buy the land from the city for $607,000. Once the land is in private hands, the city would receive new property taxes and any sales tax generated by ground-floor businesses.
"It's an investment in downtown that we think will pay off in the future," interim City Manager Robert Woolley said.
The project includes two stories of residential lofts sitting above about 6,800 square feet of commercial and office space. The project's architecture will blend with a new office building across the street and nearby downtown fire station, which has an old schoolhouse appearance with a modern flair.
Tina Sumner, the city's Community and Economic Development director, said the project will take about a year to work through the planning process and another year to build.