Is the Manchester Center Food Hall Really Coming?

I love food halls, or em, an “artisan food community”. I’ve enjoyed them in Los Angeles, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. So naturally, I was excited when one was announced for Fresno back in September 2016. Especially because the location was to be inside the Manchester Center Mall.

The plans include a new mall entrance, a redesigned facade with signage, a marketplace or “artisan food community” for chefs, food trucks and restaurants, an exterior shopping area and an outdoor events plaza.
Fresno Bee

At the time, it was supposed to be ready “a long way off, probably opening in late spring of 2017, Bagunu says, though construction has started.”

In January 2017, this was the update:

Inside the mall, renovations are going hot and heavy in the former Gottschalks store, though you wouldn’t know it because windows covered in black plastic hide the mess. It’s the beginning stages of what the mall calls a marketplace – essentially a fancy food court.

Well, I have some good news and bad news.

The good news is that the “redesigned facade” is well underway. This is an improvement from when I last did a photo tour.

The bad news is that there has been zero visible progress on the food hall. That hot and heavy construction apparently ground to a complete halt.

Let’s take a look at the current state of Manchester Center Mall.

We start outside the mall, at Blackstone and Shields. The mall owners acquired city property of what used to be a high-speed slip lane between Shields and Blackstone. It appears that this project has been expanded and the city is now removing all four slip-lanes. This is a good thing. As far as I know, this was the only such design in Fresno. It allowed for people to make 45mph+ turns between the two avenues, which is incredibly dangerous in an area with pedestrians.

I believe the Manchester corner will turn into parking, to replace the spaces lost when they built the Chipotle. I am unsure what the other three corners will look like – hopefully some green space.

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Moving on to the mall itself. You can see construction underway on the exterior. This is the southwestern corner.

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Clear distinction between old and new.

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The southern entrance where the steakhouse and Chinese Buffet used to be (left of the entrance).

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This area is finished. I wouldn’t call it beautiful, but it is an improvement. This use to be a dentist office. Way back, there was a Red Robin over here. You can compare with Streetview here.

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Not sure what is replacing the dentist.

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Looking back

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Now we switch sides to Blackstone. As seen from the bus station, the difference between old and new is very obvious. I don’t know if the Sears section will be renovated, because I believe it’s actually considered a separate building.

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May these palm trees grow forever.

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That’s a cell phone “tower” above the UEI logo, but I’m not sure what company.

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Inside hasn’t changed. Escalators remain stairs.

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Ok, now we reach the back side (eastern side), where the FOOD HALL will be, in the former department store. This is what we really came for.

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Looking backwards real quick.

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Approaching the moment of truth.

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WHERE IS THE FOOD.

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From another door.

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Ugh. That won’t be opening any time soon.

Oh, and that big outdoor plaza that is supposed to connect the mall with the movie theater is nowhere to be seen either. But you can see the old and new facade.

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Why are these slightly different colors

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This entrance is sort of hidden now.

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And looking back at the future FOOD HALL

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Going in the mall again…they’re not maintaining the neon.

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Signage inside the mall.

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These windows are always blocked.

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Now that we’re inside, we walk one last time to the southern end. That’s where we started on the outside, but that entrance was closed. What are they doing down there?

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Upstairs

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This is where the carousel was. Supposedly, it is being moved to the new plaza.

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The outdoors is completely open. Good thing it’s winter because the cheap tarp (which had holes in it, allowing for these photos) won’t keep any A/C in.

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And looking back, I do enjoy that they maintain the signage on even though every single food court business is closed forever.

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Well that’s it.

So they kept their promise of building a new outbuilding, with the Chipotle. Great!

And they kept their promise of redoing the exterior facade. Great!

But there is no sign of construction on the marketplace/food hall or the exterior plaza. Originally those were expected by “end of 2017” and yet here we are in 2018. Based on what it looks like now, if they kick off heavy work this week, they might be ready by July. 

Additionally, they’ve failed to do even basic maintenance improvements inside the mall, resulting in many broken escalators, missing lights, and a lack of restrooms. 


And there were rumors of Ross signing on to a large space, but there’s been no movement on that front either. 

I’m still hoping for the best. I just wished they were moving a little faster. 


Oh, and by the way, according to the New York Times: 

Holiday Retail Sales Soared, With Biggest Increase Since Recession

Shame they missed the holiday season.

What do you all think, will they pull it off? Will Fresno get a fun food hall? 

4 Replies to “Is the Manchester Center Food Hall Really Coming?”

  1. Part of me is saying they're just putting lipstick on a pig. No street front buildings, etc. That whole mall just reminds me of the Dead Mall series, so 90s. It would've been cool had they did what another mall did in Seattle and add residential buildings to the property. I think they might've had a better shot had they attracted more mixed demographics to the area. I do like how they're making the street more walkable, but you're still crossing a parking lot to get to the food court. On a aside, why aren't they using this opportunity to add EV charge points? There is so little in the way of useful infrastructure for those that want to invest in an electric car. I just feel like it's another missed opportunity.

    1. Missed opportunity?? Well you hit the nail on the heat TI…Fresno is FULL of missed opportunities. I agree it looked like lipstick on a pig. Im more of the mindset of demolish the whole fucking thing and start anew so you can imply new and modern construction designs to make it light and airy. The pics James took of the inside just made me depressed and sad…of an era long gone (80s and 90s). Its all about lifestyle centers now. Should have put some affordable housing or mixed uses living areas on top of the mall. Things take too damn long to get built around here. Personally I think the Chipotle and Habit burger is the uplifting part of the whole area BECAUSE it was built from the ground up and not from some old remodeled from of what used to be…smh. Cmon Fresno….

  2. Traditional malls are dying, but Manchester has a huge opportunity to re-invent itself. Any mall that doesn’t embrace a move from mostly retail to dining/entertainment will likely perish, and Manchester could beat SV and FF to the punch. Other than grocery stores, necessity stores (Walgreens/CVS/Walmart/Target) – most of which are in ample supply around Manchester – and high end stores where service is just as important as, if not more important than, product (Nespresso, Free People, West Elm) – most of which aren’t destined for Fresno anytime soon -, retail is definitely on the decline. Manchester could use this opportunity to turn into a dining/entertainment hub (services like hair care, legal and tax services, and medical could still play a part) with restaurants, fun like bowling /mini golf / rides / comedy clubs / whatever else you can think of.

    (Why doesn’t this forum let you edit? I always find a typo or two after posting, and I have to delete and re-post to correct it. Stupid…)

    1. I was just reading an article about a European retailer who is disappointed in their sales in American malls because the customers really only come on weekends. VS downtown stores where theres always people.

      Aside from entertainment, Manchester needs housing.

      Also, Im moving to a new blog provider soon which is hopefully better in regards to comments.

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