Nobody would argue that we live in a different world today. News isn’t always real and great journalism shares space with click-bait headlines designed to generate traffic on social media platforms.
One example appeared on the front page of The Bee April 22. It was a story about Fulton Street’s reopening. The headline read: “Six months later, where is everybody?”
Three writers devoted 1,500 words to a story that took just three paragraphs to deliver its first downbeat quote; “When this goes away, who’s going to come, because there’s nothing.”
This was followed by a number of comments that supported the headline. “Revitalization is already behind schedule, the only activity is a handful of new businesses, dozens of ground floor spaces remain vacant, the excitement of opening day has fizzled.”
When The Bee reports that revitalization is “behind schedule,” I’d like to know whose schedule. The city of Fresno has consistently said revitalization would take five to 10 years. As the article correctly pointed out, 90 percent of the 200 cities in America that removed their downtown malls saw full revitalization in an average of four years.
So using either time table we are still very early into the process, certainly too early for The Bee to be drawing conclusions of the success or failure, particularly in light of the significant progress, including those outlined below.
This isn’t something you would know when you read, “The only activity is a handful of new businesses.” How can reporters see three new downtown restaurants about to open, a fourth under major renovation, a fifth already open and a sixth ready to go with a negotiated lease and describe that as “the only activity”? Six new downtown restaurants opening in a concentrated area is reason to celebrate.
Regarding the comment that “dozens of ground floor spaces remain vacant,” the facts just don’t support this claim. There are currently 15 rentable ground floor spaces available on the six blocks of Fulton, between Tuolumne and Inyo Streets. If you include the Bank of Italy, JC Penney and Gottschalks, there are 18. Too many for sure, but not “dozens.”
And finally, “the excitement of opening day has fizzled,” is pure hyperbole. At the State of Downtown on April 26, it was standing room only. Hundreds of stakeholders and interested citizens celebrated the turnaround and future of downtown, which includes many new businesses on Fulton, the surrounding neighborhoods and the massive improvement project in Chinatown – a $23 million-dollar facelift that is about to begin!
There is more interest in downtown today than at any period over the past 40 years and people from all over the Valley are coming by the thousands. If you’ve never been to Art Hop, the outdoor festivals at Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company, the new Ale Trail, a Neil Young concert at the Warnor’s Theater, a Taco Truck Throwdown, professional soccer or baseball game or spent a day in the sun at the new Cultural Arts District Park, you really should see for yourself what’s happening downtown.
Take a drive down Fulton Street and count the construction trucks. Last week, there were seven parked on the corner of Fulton and Mariposa streets, now called Renoir Corner, where two of the six new restaurants will open soon.
I look forward to seeing stories in that celebrate the progress and would suggest a visit to Art Hop on any first Thursday of the month when thousands of people descend on the 12-block area known as the Cultural Arts District.
John Ostlund is a partner in One Putt Broadcasting and president of The Fulton Group, with offices in downtown Fresno for 42 years. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.