Editorials

EDITORIAL: Let's fix our downtown

We have been longtime supporters of revitalizing downtown Fresno by encouraging businesses and other large projects to locate in the city's central core. To have a vibrant city, you must have a vibrant downtown.

But there are some projects that may not be good candidates for a downtown location, and a proposed health-sciences university is one of them.

The Fresno City Council recognized that reality Thursday, voting 6-0 to support a resolution backing campus construction in the Friant area. Downtown supporters remain critical of the health-sciences university going outside of downtown.

But that ship has sailed, and it would be much more productive to work on other initiatives that would improve downtown Fresno. Downtown revitalization has made many positive strides in recent years, although there is much work left to be done. Focus on projects that are workable and stop chasing projects that downtown is not going to land.

The Assemi family, which wants to build the private health-sciences university near Millerton Lake, has also built several projects downtown. The family said it had looked for a Fresno location: Nothing was big enough and assembling adjacent properties would take four to five years, Darius Assemi said Thursday.

The Assemis want to build the health-sciences university in phases. The first step is building a pharmacy college, with classes scheduled to begin in August 2014. The pharmacy college will start in a Clovis building, with the plan to ultimately move to the Friant location.

Meanwhile, downtown supporters need to stop looking for a silver bullet for revitalization, and continue their work of improvement a block at a time. City Hall must also realize that if it is more costly to build downtown because of the problem of assembling land or infrastructure limitations, those costs must be offset with other incentives. There are other challenges, including parking and a traffic circulation system that makes it difficult to get around.

If revitalizing downtown were easy, it would have been done by now. The community has been looking for a solution ever since big retailers moved from the central core to the suburbs with promises of "acres of free parking."

We believe downtown is on the right track, but its supporters aren't helping the cause when they get sidetracked by projects that have already committed to locations outside of downtown.

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