About a mile north of downtown Fresno, at the intersection of Blackstone and McKinley, a really exciting project is well underway: Fresno’s first transit-oriented apartment building. Aside from looking impressive in person, I think this is the first time in Fresno history that a real apartment building is being constructed outside the downtown core. And by “real,” I mean as one urban unit. There are apartments all over Fresno, but they tend to be two-story, 2 or 4 unit blocks built among an oasis of parking and grass. Those are perfectly fine, but they’re suburban in nature. This building will have four floors, which will make it twice as tall as 98% of Fresno buildings.
It was inevitable, but it still comes as a shock: the Sears at Manchester Center is closing.
Last time I toured Manchester Center, in January 2019, I asked “what will happen first: the food hall opens, or Sears closes?” Now we have our answer.
While Sears may not be the hottest shop in town, it still draws some shoppers. The Sierra Vista location, which they lease, is profitable enough that it will remain open (at least for another holiday season). Their Manchester Center rent is zero, as they own the building and the land it sits on. While the store is connected to the mall, it’s not actually part of it, which is why the store entrance is not centered (title image).
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.
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.
Construction Kickoff: June 2016
Launch: Fall 2017
In reality, the bus line was delayed yet again to February or March of this year (originally, it was expected way back in 2012).
Shaw & Blackstone Corridor
January 17, 2018 | 5:30 pm–7:00 pm
5080 N Blackstone Ave
Fresno, CA 93710
Quick aside: This is a complete failure of public outreach and engagement. Asking people to come to YOU, on a certain date, at a certain time is public outreach in name only. FAX knows where the customers are (on the bus and at the stations). FAX should come to the people. Nobody is going to take time and money out of their day to go to a random location to hear some official talk about a kiosk. Worse: The three meetings are in the same time period (5:30pm-7pm) so anyone who works during those hours is out of luck.
Depressing. I recently read about a city which launched a new bus service and advertised it by mailing info to every house within 1/4 mile of the route. That’s outreach.
Also, at some point they should maybe tell the public how this will affect the two existing bus lines that currently run on Blackstone and Kings Canyon. I’ve yet to see any information about that.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the construction shortly before the new line opens. This post looks at a regular stop in Blackstone, the Manchester Transfer Center, and the Van Ness stop by the Courthouse Transfer Station.
We start at a random bus stop on Blackstone and Clinton. This location previously had a regular bus stop, shelter, and bench.
Like all the Q bus stops, the sidewalk was pushed out into the roadway. This is because the stations require extra space, and because it means the bus doesn’t have to pull out of traffic. Pulling out slows the bus because drivers don’t let the bus merge back in.
Oddly enough, this stop already had a shelter and bench, so the sidewalk was already wider. They actually REMOVED sidewalk in this process….why?
You can see the sidewalk to the left is all even, rather than extending back a bit towards the store. This actually causes the “newly widened” sidewalk to have a narrow pinch point. Couldn’t those electrical boxes be kept in the back?
On the other end, the sidewalk extension doesn’t go all the way to the corner. Why?
Here’s looking north.
And with a bus that didn’t stop.
Some people have worried that extending the stop out has made the lane too narrow. Nope. Look at the blue car in relation to the width of the lane. The sidewalk could have been extended another 5 feet or more.
The stops have bicycle racks.
A semi-transparent roof. I don’t know what’s up there.
This stop was not fortunate enough to get seating with back support.The stop previously had two benches, so this is actually a downgrade.
There are now ticket machines.
They take credit cards
Everything is in English and Spanish.
….except the “language” button. Really. Oddly, “Cards” is in white text in English, while all the other English is in black text.
The map is still locked away
The (unnecessarily large) electrical box is to support the kiosk and also a time estimate, although I didn’t notice a screen.
And one last look.
Now we move to the Manchester Center Transfer Center. This place closed a year ago. When I visited in August, I was shocked at how little progress had been made at what is the busiest bus stop in Fresno.
Four months later, it’s not looking much better.
A year of construction and they couldn’t even level the place.
For reference, this is what the old shelters looked like
A lot of FAX buses will stop here. The stop at the end is for Q.
Very similar to the previous stop we looked at.
The ticket kiosk and map.
But two benches, one with back support, one without.
This trash can is open for business.
There are bike racks, but they were installed incorrectly. They should be rotated 90 degrees, or else you can only lock 4 bikes rather than 6.
Note the location of the push button. This is a good installation. The location we’ll look at downtown was installed badly.
The Blackstone crosswalk. This was built brand new in 2016…and then never opened. They ripped it all up and built it again. Your Fresno money at work. (Although the newer design is much better). However, the push button is not well located.
(The pedestrian crossing is functional, I pushed the button and it quickly changed)
From the parking lot.
And now we go downtown to the Courthouse Transfer Center on Van Ness.
Q will stop at island platform, the other routes along the courthouse park like always.
Same design here as the other stops.
Except this one has a longer roof than the random stop on Blackstone. Only one bench though.
New crosswalks built to the islands at a new signal. Remember earlier how I called out the push button? These are badly installed because they are relatively out of the way.
One thing they did do well is install the vehicle detection. See the circle and lines in the pavement? That’s how the traffic signal knows a bus is waiting. A bus can stop behind the white line, load, and then when ready to cross, move forward to trigger the traffic signal. (As long as the drivers are told to do this).
The angle of the red/green arrows is a novelty in Fresno. But the signal on the far left is a waste of money.
The other shelters in the transfer center were updated. I think the design is pretty cool, but I love Art Deco.
For reference this is what the old ones looked like. They were horrendously ugly, but they provided a lot more cover.
Is it too much to ask for the shelters to be both attractive and large?
That’s it for the Fresno FAX Q update!
Service is supposed to start soon, and hopefully it improved the lives of those using the bus system to get around. Faster boarding will speed up trips, and buses every 10 minutes (during peak hours) will be well used.
Shame it took a decade to built what many other cities call “standard bus service.”
My next post will be a look at construction inside the Manchester Center Mall. The new food hall was supposed to open this winter, will it? (Hint: No).