Fulton Mall: Now
The Fulton Mall is a pedestrian-only mall located on Fulton Street in Downtown Fresno. It occupies six blocks between Tuolumne and Inyo Streets. Fresno and Tulare Streets allow vehicular traffic through the mall but there is no on-street parking. The Mall is 2,670 feet long and 80-feet wide.
The mall is known as an outdoor museum of art. It has 20 art features, 80 seating areas, two tot lots, and 144 trees. The Mall’s art was appraised at $2 million in 2011.
The Fulton Mall, to-day, serves as an urban park. Downtown Fresno employs 30,000 people. Employees have little incentive to stay after work, so most economic activity on the Mall ends after 5pm. The Mall is unable to compete with the ever-evolving River Park and Fashion Fair Mall for business.
The Mall’s high-quality and historical design contrasts with its poor state of maintenance. Patches of the concrete are cracked due to shallow roots. Electrical wire is exposed and overtaken by roots. All of the fountains did not operate for a couple of years because of the City’s budget crisis. There is a lack of convenient parking, meaning there are no valuable parking spaces in front of stores. Pedestrians and drivers do not have a clear view of the Mall from either end, due to visual obstacles. This contributes to the Mall’s unsafe and uninviting appearance.
The Mariposa Plaza hosts a lot of events, but the Plaza provides little shade to the tens of thousands of visitors during the hot summer months. This contrasts with the massive amount of shade in other areas of the Mall. The Plaza has a free-speech stage that was meant to accommodate entertainment. The stage, however, is under-utilized because of its inadequacy.
Vacancies are common on the Fulton Mall. Seven buildings are listed either on the National or Local Register of Historic Resources. Seventy-one percent of the office space is vacant. There are six large historic buildings adjacent to the Mall; 35% of the space is vacant. The Fulton Mall’s ground space is 26% vacant. Fifty-seven percent of this space is occupied by retail businesses that mostly sell moderately priced goods and services.
The discussion of revitalizing the Fulton Mall has been brought to the City’s attention for many years.
There have been a couple of movements in support of keeping the Mall pedestrian-only. The Central Area Community Plan, in 1989, called for the Fulton Mall to remain a pedestrian space. The City, in 2006, hosted a series of public meetings. The majority of the attendees supported keeping the Mall pedestrian-only.
There have been more recorded attempts in support of opening the Mall to vehicular traffic. The City Council, in 1992, unanmiously favored the Ratkovich Plan to allow cars on the Mall and to build a downtown stadium. No action was taken. The Urban Land Institute, in 1999, recommended that the Fulton Mall should be redesigned to restore part of its original street grid. The Redevelopment Agency in 2002 supported the idea of introducing limited traffic and refurbished parts of the landscape of the Mall. That same year the ELS Architecture and Urban Design recommended that the City welcome back limited traffic. No action was taken. In 2007, the Downtown Transportation Infrastructure Study analyzed the impacts of three possible options for the mall: keep it pedestrian-only, partially open it or completely open it. They did not make a formal recommendation but they did urge the City to make minimal improvements with the lighting and streetscape.
MOST RECENT ATTEMPTS
The Fulton Mall staff, in 2010, was reduced from seven to two people. City maintenance, last year, workers spent part of their work shifts on the Mall to make up for the cutback. This led to cosmetic work like the repair of lights, cleaning of the pavement, trimming of trees, and turning on seven fountains that were in good condition. A few police officers can be seen patrolling the Mall.
The Mall was determined eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Resources, in 2010. It did not receive a national designation because most of the private owners objected to it. Property owners might have been against the designation out of fear that “red tape” would prevent drastic improvements made to the urban park. The Fulton Mall, instead, was listed on California’s Register of Historic Resources.
Last year, the Fulton Corridor Specific Plan Community Advisory Group voted for three options concerning the future of the Fulton Mall. The City Council, next year, will decide to completely open the Mall to vehicular traffic, restore the Mall to its original design, or a compromise of the two options. I will go into detail of these option, later.
Have a lovely day in Fresno!
Veronica Stumpf, Co-Broker
DRE Lic. #01906952