Could an often overlooked part of downtown Fresno be the next thriving hub of renewal?
But quietly and steadily, another pocket of downtown has been inching its way toward becoming something new. In the southeast corner of downtown near Ventura Avenue and Highway 41, change is happening.
Three new local restaurants are opening on P Street in historic Warehouse Row. Several empty buildings nearby – including the former Old Spaghetti Factory – are being remodeled into offices and restaurant spaces.
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Eventually – if developers’ and restaurateurs’ dreams come to fruition – hundreds more employees will be working in the area. They hope new restaurants will cater to not just downtown employees during the day but also evening diners, including from the nearby residential area.
“I think this area is going to be the next commercial district,” says Melanie Unguez, who opened a coffee and gift shop at 744 P St. “We have the brewery area and we have the (residential) area and I think a lot of work activity is going to start happening.”
More changes are coming.
The Old Spaghetti Factory building at 2721 Ventura Ave. is gutted as work starts on its remodel. The building will soon become Bitwise 41, similar to the technology hub that houses all kinds of small companies at 700 Van Ness Ave.
The building is already completely booked with tenants. Between 100 and 150 people will work there, said developer William Dyck.
Bitwise 41 and another building, the State Center Warehouse & Cold Storage Co. at 747 R St. near Ventura Avenue, are part of a partnership between Bitwise’s Jake Soberal and Dyck.
Work will start soon on the R Street building, a long stretch of brick buildings. It will be turned into offices and five restaurants and could bring about 300 employees to the area.
Four restaurants will have outdoor seating on the loading dock and a fifth will be on the rooftop. A lease is close to being signed for the rooftop space, though Dyck would not say who will open there.
The developers are also planning for an apartment building nearby.
Despite all these grand plans, the vision can sometimes be a little hard to see.
For now, the area is on the quiet side. Despite lots of nearby offices, P Street and R Streets are dead during certain times of the day, even at lunchtime.
But the restaurant owners and developers are confident. They’re counting on nearby employees for business now. That includes the more than 100 employees at the PG&E building across the street and the 250 to 300 people day who come through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which moved in next door to the restaurants.
Dale Bros. opened recently at 744 P St. in a former creamery space that was part of the Consumer Ice Co. The coffee and gift shop is a partnership by Unguez, who is the owner of Twee Boutique, and the Dale Bros. family.
The shop sells all the typical espresso-based drinks like lattes and a few unusual ones like the non-coffee birthday cake drink. It will have cold-brew coffee on tap, a process that uses nitrogen to create a smooth cup of a coffee with a bit of a head like a beer.
Corazón Baking from Fresno will provide pastries, cookies and muffins.
The rest of the business is a shop selling Dale Bros. themed items, kitschy mugs, jewelry and home items.
The name Dale Bros. is likely familiar to many longtime Fresnans. The family business of the same name roasted coffee on H Street in downtown Fresno for decades. A giant coffee can is still on the roof with the Dale Bros. name and logo barely visible.
The company doesn’t roast coffee anymore, but provides coffee and water for offices under the name Coffee Break Service.
The shop doesn’t use Dale Bros. coffee, instead opting for coffee from a Sacramento roaster.
Next up is Quesadilla Gorilla, a food-truck-turned restaurant that has locations in Visalia and in Fresno near Fresno High School.
The owners are shooting for an early July opening in the same P Street building as Dale Bros. The restaurant is pronounced “Quesa-Dee-ya Gor-ee-ya” or “Quesa-DILL-a Gor-ill-a (as long as it rhymes, they say).
It will have the same menu as its other restaurants and trucks, that includes build-your-own quesadillas and gourmet quesadillas they’ve created.
Eventually, they hope of have craft beer on tap at the restaurant.
Lastly, the owner of Tapsi, a restaurant serving quick Filipino food, hopes to open in August.
The name is derived from “tapsilog,” a breakfast food served all day in the Philippines made from cured beef, garlic fried rice and a fried egg. They’ll be open for breakfast and lunch, serving the meat-and-rice bowl and other Filipino dishes, salads and lumpia Shanghai, which is a pork eggroll.
Running a restaurant will be a first for owner Doreen Key, but she is no stranger to the food business. The registered dietician has for years overseen a company that makes 700 meals a day for area adult day-care centers.
Moving Feast Catering, as the catering company is named, will leave its kitchen at the Trading Post Shopping Center in Clovis. The kitchen will continue to make the meals in the P Street place with the restaurant occupying the front of the space.