Education Lab

Fresno State students offer downtown ideas

Some Fresno State students spent much of the fall semester crawling through dusty downtown buildings, talking to real estate agents and bugging landlords in a quest to create the perfect business for the area.

Those Urban Entrepreneurship students unveiled proposals Thursday at the International Trade Center in downtown -- 16 plans ranging from a comedy club to an indoor BMX and skate park to a laboratory for budding business people.

Whether the ideas become reality remains to be seen, but the class taught by Craig Scharton, director of Fresno's Downtown and Community Revitalization Department, always produces innovative and sometimes far-reaching proposals.

"These kids aren't looking at constraints," said Tim Stearns, a professor of entrepreneurship at Fresno State. "They are looking at opportunities. If all these were implemented, this place would be transformed."

And what a group of ideas they are.

Christopher Turley and Ty Simpson want to remodel Warnors Theatre into a lively dinner theater. Richard Salinas proposes the Central Valley Sports Museum & Restaurant at Inyo Street and Van Ness Avenue. Stephanie Roberts wants to turn the former Bank of Italy into the Amadeo Fresno Hotel and Resort, complete with rooftop bar and lounge.

Steven Herr, Chad Dettman and Erik Teran think Fulton Mall should be transformed entirely into "Central City," with the old JC Penney building at Fulton Street and Tulare Avenue the hub.

The former department store building would be remodeled at a cost of $15.5 million into Fulton Lofts and Bowling. It would contain a bowling alley in the basement; food court and restaurant on the first floor and mezzanine; three floors of housing; and a barbecue, minibar, pool and stage on the roof.

Pivotal Park, the BMX and skateboard park, and Panderia Dulce, a Mexican bakery that Gonzalo Aranda-Sandoval, Jennifer Wright and Thomas Flores want to take national, and Garrett Stone's Liberty Laundry Comedy and Improv Club would be within walking distance.

Only a few of the ideas pitched by students over the years have become reality, but that doesn't stop some of them from believing. In tiny type just below "The End" of Salinas' proposal for the Central Valley Sports Museum & Restaurant were these words:

"Investors meet me after class."