Investment & Development
The best incentive for any investment is the promise of making a return. Through the revitalization efforts being led by the City’s Downtown and Community Revitalization Division, Downtown Fresno is becoming a place where it makes business sense to develop property, open a store or restaurant, live, or locate an office. Over the next several years, the market will respond by bringing more investment and development to the Downtown area.
Meanwhile, the Department is working with peer agencies to directly address obstacles to development and encourage investment in Downtown now. For more details about any of the information below, contact Elliott Balch, City of Fresno Downtown Revitalization Manager, by email or at (559) 621-8350.
Impact fee waiver. Fresno County Measure C is funding the City of Fresno's Downtown Development Incentive Program (click for complete information and an application packet). The program reduces impact fee obligations for development projects that include dense housing within a specified area of downtown Fresno.
Connecting investors with opportunities.
The City receives frequent calls from entrepreneurs seeking space for new businesses downtown. Meanwhile the Department also works with developers interested in bringing new use to vacant downtown buildings and land. Connecting developers with potential tenants benefits both parties, and helps get projects financed and built more quickly.
Maintaining dialogue with brokers. Real estate brokers are on the “front lines” in connecting tenants with available office and commercial space. The Department has begun regular meetings with brokers active in the Downtown market to refer potential customers who call City Hall, address client issues, and provide up-to-date information on the revitalization effort.
Historic theaters. Theaters are key drivers of revitalization because they can draw an after-hours crowd on a regional basis, which can in turn spill over to other nearby businesses. Historic theaters, moreover, are each unique and beautiful. Yet of Downtown Fresno’s five historic theaters, none is truly in full use. The Downtown and Community Revitalization Department has made contact with the owners and users of these theaters and is eager to help bring vitality to these buildings once again.
Water supply. Downtown’s groundwater level has lowered as a result of many decades of pumping. Of the five wells serving Downtown Fresno, only three are now functional. As a result, Downtown is currently in a water supply deficit, and development projects face the possibility of delayed approvals for occupancy until supply issues are resolved. The Department of Public Utilities is implementing a plan to add water capacity downtown through a $9.4 million storage tank and $4.3 million pipeline. The added capacity from this $13.7 million City investment is expected to come online in May 2012.
Fixing outdated rules. Cumbersome and contradictory development laws can be an immense obstacle to good urban projects. The City is addressing these issues through the Fulton Corridor Specific Plan and other updates to development codes in our Downtown.
Incentives for business. The City helps businesses qualify for tax credits for the state and federal government for hiring workers, capital investment, and more. Find out what these incentive zones can do for you or your tenants.
Within a block of the Fulton Mall, of the seventeen buildings on the Local or National Registers of Historic Places, eleven are largely or completely vacant.
The Department believes the longtime neglect of buildings is a serious impediment to the revitalization effort. Neglected buildings — especially historic ones — represent missed opportunities and serve as signals of an unsuccessful downtown. Depending on the circumstances, neglect can also pose a threat to the physical integrity of our historic landmarks, or to the public’s health and safety. Bringing new life to these eyesores carries special importance.
New enforcement measures. For many years the City of Fresno has taken a conservative approach to neglectful building owners. Code violations were documented, owners were cited, and modest fines were paid. However, despite the City’s best intentions, the fundamental neglect was allowed to continue. Under the Swearengin administration, the City is exploring significantly increased fines for code violations, escalating fines upon successive citations, and a tighter period for owners to demonstrate progress toward fixing violations.
Incentives. Cities in California can provide assistance to owners of historic buildings through adoption of a local Mills Act program. Under the Mills Act, owners who agree to restore and maintain their historic buildings can receive significantly lower property tax assessments. This tool has proven effective in other California cities, and is in use in at least 85 other jurisdictions. The Department is working with City peers to bring a Mills Act proposal forward to the City Council.
One example: a Public Market. The Department is working with private business owners and developers on a new “public market” to be created inside an existing building on the Fulton Mall. The Market will be a marquee regional destination that connects the Valley’s agricultural identity with anyone who appreciates fresh, high-quality food and produce. By operating everyday, the Market will serve as a consistent anchor for the revitalized Fulton Mall area. The Market is also an opportunity to demonstrate best practices in the adaptive reuse of large older buildings.
In January 2013, nationally recognized public market expert Ted Spitzer came to Fresno and gave this presentation to nearly 200 community supporters and potential investors about the important considerations and next steps in creating a viable public market.
Success is possible. The June 2010 purchase of the Droge Building by the Housing Authorities of the City and County of Fresno shows what can happen when motivated investors are connected with Downtown's greatest challenges and opportunities.
For more details about any of the information above, contact Elliott Balch, City of Fresno Downtown Revitalization Manager, by email or at (559) 621-8350.