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Fulton Street Updates: A Revitalized Downtown Brings All Types of People Together

Feb 06, 2017 02:02PM ● Published by Melanie Heisinger

Image courtesy of http://www.fresyes.com.

Fulton Street in Fresno, CA has been going through lots of changes, and recently actions have been taken to finally open up the updated Fulton Street to the public. 

The Fulton Mall has caused plenty of issues, and it has just become outdated. In 2009, Mayor Ashley Swearengin decided to do something about it and began laying out plans to update Fulton Street. 

We wanted to learn a little bit more about the progress and what to expect, so we got in touch with 
Fulton Mall Manager for the Downtown Fresno partnership Craig Scharton. He was able to fill us in on the the progress being made and what to be excited about. 

Tell us a little bit about Fulton Street. What's its history?

Fulton Street is the historic Main Street of Fresno and the whole Central San Joaquin Valley.  It's the place where people came for goods, services and entertainment.  It was the central meeting point.  When people from around a region meet in one place, high rises, theaters and government buildings grow. Fulton Street was just two blocks from the train station, which is where Fresno began.  So it was the place where people first entered the city.


Tell us a little bit about you. What is your role with the expansion of Fulton Street?

I've been interested in downtown revitalization for 30 years.  It became increasingly apparent the the pedestrian mall, the Fulton mall, wasn't working anymore.  As a number of downtown supporters began to look around the country, to see how other pedestrian malls were doing, we found that over 90% had been removed.  We also found out that when pedestrian malls were removed that downtowns sprang back to life. So the course became clear. 

My role has been to advocate for this change as a property owner, business owner, city department director and currently as the Fulton mall Manager for the Downtown Fresno partnership, which is the downtown property owners' association.

What is something we can expect to see with the impending reopening of Fulton Street?

What we have learned from other cities is that the increased flow of traffic bring in more customers which leads to increased business. This progression happens relatively quickly and continues on for years.  90% of the cities that reintroduced traffic to a former pedestrian mall saw substantial revitalization in 4 years or less. Since our downtown was so dead prior to this construction, the increase should be very dramatic.  What we will likely see is an increase in nighttime entertainment: restaurants, craft beer, coffeehouses, art galleries and fun retail.

How can someone get involved?

The best ways to get involved are to jump in and watch the changes as they happen.  This is a special time in our downtown's history and you shouldn't miss it.  I lead walking tours on the fourth Saturday of the month, which you can find on the Downtown Fresno Partnership Facebook Page. There are several other Facebook pages that focus on downtown Fresno, and they'll keep you up to date on events. 

I'm always happy to give groups tours, just contact me and we'll set it up for you and your friends, co-workers or community group. 

(Craig's email: cscharton@downtownfresno.org)

Is there anything else we should know?

When cities revitalize their downtowns then other amazing things start to fall into place. Citizens start feeling better about the place where they live. When people realize that they can solve a big problem, like revitalizing a dead downtown, they start realizing and believing that they can solve other problems. A revitalized downtown also brings all types of people together, so citizens aren't just hanging out in their own part of town, with the same people, they are mixing ages, races, income levels all of the groups that live right here in our Central Valley.  There are so many intangibles to look forward to.

When I hear someone say, for the first time, "Let's meet downtown for dinner.  Where do you want to meet?  I don't know, let's just walk around a see what looks good!"  That's the day that revitalization has taken hold.  
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