10/12/2007

Downtown Fresno Businesses Not Yet Worried About Forest City Project: KFSN-TV30, Fresno CA, 8/27/07

By Maureen Naylor

The Fresno city council Tuesday will decide if it wants to move forward on a new Forest City plan to develop an area in downtown Fresno.

Plans call for a major makeover along Mono Street, apartments for 2,000 people, with roundabouts, fountains and a park. But for this to happen the city will have to deal with about two dozen businesses already in the area.

Four generations of Baskins have worked at the family auto upholstery shop in downtown Fresno which is right in the middle of the proposed development.

Bruce Baskin, business owner, says "We don't want to go anywhere, but with eminent domain, they don't give you much of a choice. I think it's a bad idea, it's kind of a pipe dream, I don't think it will fly down here."

Fresno leaders hope Forest City will draw more people to downtown with its three phase $300 million project covering 19 blocks southeast of Chukchansi Park.

Instead of getting a big name store like Bass Pro, the developer now wants to build about 800 townhomes and apartments with stores underneath, followed by a movie theater in the second phase and more commercial space in the final stage.

Getting the land in place will likely mean the city using eminent domain. Jerry Duncan, Fresno City Council Member, says "I don't see that as a big issue, this project and the area down here we've been talking about for a long time. And frankly a lot of these property owners that we've talked to are like, when can I get my check."

Like Zorig Berberian, who's willing to move his auto shop. "Mechanics shops aren't going to last too long around here, so if I find somewhere nearby, I will move over there. If they have to move me out, that's okay with me," says Berberian.

Businesses we talked to want to remain downtown if they have to move but say after years of hearing about possible changes, they'll start worrying when the bulldozers actually come.

Even if the project passes Tuesday, it will take a year for the environmental impact report and another year before construction starts.


KFSN-TV30, Fresno CA: http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn