Manchester Center Renovation Moving at Glacial Pace

One year ago I wondered if “the Manchester Center Food Hall was Really Coming?” I recently took a stroll around the mall to see if we could get an answer to that question. I have some good news and bad news.

The good news: Some work is being done.

The bad news: The pace at which the work is being done indicates that there is a single person working on his weekends to complete it. At the current pace, we will all be dead before that person is done.

Background: In May 2015 a company announced a renovation of Manchester Center. A year later, nothing had happened. In September 2016, the Bee reported that work was beginning and phase 1 would be done by Spring 2017.

Here is where we are as of January 2019, after a full four years of hope.

Exterior Renovations

You don’t have to stop by the mall to notice that they kept their word on doing exterior renovations. It doesn’t look exactly like the render, but it is something.

The render of the renovation

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2015

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2015

I wouldn’t call it beautiful, but it is certainly more modern. I wish they had added even more windows, especially where the steak house was, but that’s not different than any other mall.

Here it is head on.

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And on the Blackstone side, you can see the main entrance (with new Chipotle), and also how the new exterior compares with Sears. Sears owns their building, and isn’t about to spend any money on it, so it’s going to be like this until Sears dies.

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The new out-buildings are ugly, but modern in a Fresno way.
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Don’t expect Sears to spend a penny on exterior updates.

The one other exterior change on the Blackstone side has been the removal if the highs-speed slip lanes between Shields and Blackstone. These were unique in Fresno, and let drivers make the turn without stopping at the light. Unfortunately, that speed is really bad for pedestrians. Fresno took the great step of filling those in….but in typical Fresno fashion, screwed up by removing the existing pedestrian connection between the mall and the corner. Seriously?

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The sidewalk connection is now under dirt
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On Fridays, the corner of the parking lot turns into a small market. Stop by for a variety of food trucks and vegetable stands. This is the only local food you will find at the mall these days.

Finally, we take a quick peak around back. There is no sign of construction on the promised plaza that is supposed to better link the mall with the movie theater.

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The future plaza
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Existing sidewalk. Future food hall on the right. It has been painted since the last update a year ago.

The Food Hall

Let’s be honest, this is what most people care about.

Here is the moment of truth. We approach the old Gottschalks. The exterior has been painted to match the rest of the mall, but they have done no other maintenance.

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We peak inside.

What has happened over the past 12 months?

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January 2019
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January 2018

No food hall any time soon folks.

Interior Renovations

Well, the food hall is still a bust. What about the rest of the mall? The Sears side looks the same as always, except Sears is downsizing by blocking off shopping areas. Just two weeks ago, it looked like Sears was done for good, but the store will be around for at least another year. Place your bet folks, what will happen first: the food hall opens, or Sears closes?

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We take a walk to the other side of the mall where the carousel used to be. This is what it looked like in January 2018, when interior construction started.

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January 2018
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January 2018
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January 2018

And here is what it looks like after 12 months. Progress? Absolutely. But I have seen 400 home neighborhoods go up faster. Enjoy!

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January 2019
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January 2019 .New floor, new seating, improved lighting, and more windows. You can’t go there though, as the entrance is still blocked off.
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Food court side is blocked off. The glass walkway looks nice. The fountain under the escalator appears to have been removed.
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Not the design finishes you’d find in a luxury mall, but it does look much nicer than the older dark yellow colors. Perhaps the first working escalators in a decade?
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I think this walkway is new. Top floor is getting carpeting, which makes sense considering it’s all offices.
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The dead food court remains. I couldn’t get closer than this.
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Carpet doesn’t go far
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Most of this hallway is blocked off, but the lovely indoor trees are still there. I hope they keep them!
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Reverse angle
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New meets old
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This is around where the buffet used to be. No progress on retail. I think a Marshall’s was rumored, but that was years ago.

And that’s it! A whole year of progress. On one hand it’s nice to see some improvement, but on the other hand, this is not a sustainable pace of construction. I do hope that by January 2020 there is much, much more to report.

What do you all think, will the Manchester Food Hall ever open?

3 Replies to “Manchester Center Renovation Moving at Glacial Pace”

  1. Its not gona open. Developer will run out of money. Damn shame Fresno sucks so bad at progress and construction. Other major cities shit gets done at lightning speed. This is why Fresno always gets left in the dust. Smmfh.

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