Fresno City Council approves $1.8 million in new park acquisitions, improvements

A sign marks the spot of a future park on Fulton and Calaveras streets in downtown Fresno. The completion date has been changed several times.
A sign marks the spot of a future park on Fulton and Calaveras streets in downtown Fresno. The completion date has been changed several times. rappleton@fresnobee.com

The city of Fresno, often blasted in national rankings for a lack of parks and green space, approved several measures in the last month that will bring a new park into the fold, adopt an existing one and improve a third.

The Fresno City Council unanimously approved Thursday a $1.16 million bid from Davis Moreno Construction Inc. to build a new park on a dirt lot in the heart of downtown Fresno.

Fresno PARCS director Manuel Mollinedo said in an interview Friday that the new park at Fulton and Calaveras streets will reflect the cultural arts district.

“It will focus on the visual and performing arts,” he said. “There will be a stage area covered in canopies that will really bring a lot of color.”

Mollinedo hopes to have the park completed in the next six months. In his proposal to the City Council, Mollinedo noted that the cultural arts district is one of the most park-starved communities in the city, with only about half an acre of green space per 1,000 people.

The total cost (including indirect costs for permits, contingencies and construction management) will be about $1.4 million – most of which will be covered by state grants. The city will cover about $250,000 of the cost.

$655,000The park projects’ projected fiscal impact to the city

The lot is an eyesore for a neighborhood bustling with new residential and mixed-use developments. Residents have routinely mocked a sign promising a new park with a clearly altered completion date.

Chris Rocha, a resident of the nearby Brio! on Broadway complex, said he was excited to see the park plans finally moving forward.

“That was one of the amenities talked about when we toured our unit,” he said. “Here we are almost a year later, and it hasn’t quite gotten there yet.”

Rocha said many residents with dogs currently have to drive into north Fresno to find grass for their pets to play on. He also believes the park will make the area more inviting to families, as the neighborhood is almost exclusively populated with young, single residents.

Granville Homes head Darius Assemi has pushed the city hard to develop the park. Granville has completed about a half-dozen developments within walking distance of the future park’s location.

Assemi previously offered to pay for the park’s maintenance for its first two years, but city administrators say they still are waiting for an official commitment from the company. Multiple attempts to reach Assemi for this story were not successful.

If Assemi and city officials do not reach an agreement, the city is prepared to pay for the upkeep, Mollinedo said.

(The park) will be another place for social gathering and a huge benefit to the community.

Resident Chris Rocha

Updates to two other parks also are on the way, and Mollinedo said that two more improvements could be on the council agenda soon.

Last month, the council approved the adoption of Almy and Roy Park, which opened in August after a $350,000 fundraising push by Habitat for Humanity Fresno County and various community groups. The city will take over the management of the southwest Fresno park. The maintenance will be paid for by Cargill Meat Solutions for the next three years, at which point the city will assume the costs.

At the same meeting, council members accepted a $335,000 bid from American Construction Engineers to build a splash play area at Vinland Park at Gettysburg and Woodrow avenues. The splash area was funded primarily by city general fund dollars.

Mollinedo is planning two more splash area proposals: Holmes Playground at 212 S. First St. and Mosqueda Community Center near the fairgrounds. Both are south of Shaw Avenue – an important response to the growing chorus of community groups demanding more green space in south Fresno.

Last year, the ratio of park acreage to 1,000 residents was 1.02 in south Fresno and 4.62 in north Fresno. The Trust for Public Land reports 13.8 acres per 1,000 people as the average for a city the size of Fresno. The Trust has ranked Fresno dead last in parks and green space in its annual municipal survey in each of the last four years.

Mollinedo said the latest acquisitions and updates, as well as the opening of Martin Ray Reilly and Inspiration parks in 2015, have been part of a major step forward for the city.

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