It was noisy. The jackhammers and large construction vehicles worked for months. At times, it was day after day of loud noises. It was confusing. Pedestrians walking the area were met with fences not allowing them to walk through certain areas.
Sometimes, a short few steps turned into a stroll, as we had to walk all the way around a certain area to get to where we needed to go. Many times roads were closed and thin pathways directed foot traffic.
Sometimes, just when you thought you were going the correct way, a gate blocked your path. It was like a maze to get through. Finally, it was dusty. You could see the dust as the large machines dug through the ground.
Despite all these things, I’d be willing to go through it all again. The project was well worth it, especially looking at it now.
I am talking about the Fulton Street renovation project. Thousands have talked about it, tweeted about it and shared it on Facebook. Many media entities have covered it, including sending reporters to broadcast live on the ground.
My perspective on the renovation project is a little different. My office sits six stories above the former Fulton Mall. Every day, I watched as the construction crews beautified a dead mall. Pre and post construction, I spent my lunch break walking the mall.
As the sidewalks began to be built, things began to look promising. The patterns on the ground gave a nice touch. Then came the trees providing color and shade to an area that was overdue for a facelift.
Since experiencing first hand the months of construction, I made it a point to do my best to take my family to the celebration. That day was busy for us. Actually, any day out of the house with a pregnant wife and two boys, ages 2 and 3 is busy. We had an early afternoon birthday, then we rushed to the opening celebration.
In our rush from point A to point B, we remembered that we had forgotten the stroller. It didn’t stop us.
We got there, found parking and made our way near the Housing Authority, where a crowd had gathered watching one of the many bands performing. People were having fun. Shortly thereafter, we made our way to the Fresno County Public Health building, where we sat down and watched an entourage of nice vehicles drive by. The car show/parade had begun.
My 3-ear old was in heaven. With a big smile, he kept pointing to the cars passing by. As the cars lined up side by side, I was reminded of a story that my friend John, who has now passed away, told me. John, who was a young man prior to the 1960s, remembered the original Fulton Street. He shared many stories about when the street was the place youth would go and race.
As the cars continued to pass us, my son kept pointing at the cars. Everything to him was either a Ford Mustang or a Dodge Charger. He called them “Maaastangs” or “Chaaagers.” After the car show/parade was done, we walked up and down the crowded sidewalks. People appeared to be having a blast. Another larger crowd had gathered near the Pacific Southwest Building, where a jazz band was performing.
We noticed multiple pop-up stores all around us. These stores reminded me of some of the stories told by John. When you could drive Fulton back in the days, John said there were several stores on both sides. People were able to drive to their destinations. Then, when the mall was built, people would have to park a distance away and walk to where they wanted to go.
After my family and I walked around the Pacific Southwest building, we decided to head to our car and call it a day. The kids were getting restless. They hadn’t napped, and the high of the car show/parade was wearing off.
On the drive home, the kids dozed off, and I began to think about the potential of the newly opened Fulton Street. It could be the driving force behind cleaning up the area, including beautifying Chinatown, which is nearby.
The next Monday I looked out my sixth-floor window, high atop Fulton Street, to the area people had gathered to celebrate the opening. What if large crowds became a norm on Fulton Street? It’s an ambitious thought. But, then again, if you were to tell me that thousands would gather to celebrate the opening of a street in downtown Fresno, I’d probably doubt you.
Sevag Tateosian is host and producer of The Central Valley Ledger airing on 90.7 FM KFSR Fresno and CMAC Comcast 93 and Att 99. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org