Tag: manchester center

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. Click to read more!

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. Click to read more!

A Final Look at Construction on Fresno’s New Fake BRT Line “Q”

Fresno’s new fake “BRT” (bus rapid transit) line, branded as “Q” is set to open Fall of 2017. Well, that’s what the website says.

Key Dates
Construction Kickoff: June 2016
Construction: 2016-2017
Testing: 2017
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).

And this time they really mean it, so they’re hosting public meetings to educate people on what the bus line is. The first one is this week:


Shaw & Blackstone Corridor
January 17, 2018 | 5:30 pm–7:00 pm
Tornino’s
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.

Previous updates:
September 2017
January 2017

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?

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On the other end, the sidewalk extension doesn’t go all the way to the corner. Why?

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Here’s looking north.

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And with a bus that didn’t stop.

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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.

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The stops have bicycle racks.

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Garbage cans.

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A semi-transparent roof. I don’t know what’s up there.

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This stop was not fortunate enough to get seating with back support.The stop previously had two benches, so this is actually a downgrade.

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There are now ticket machines.

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They take credit cards

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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.

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The map is still locked away

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The (unnecessarily large) electrical box is to support the kiosk and also a time estimate, although I didn’t notice a screen.

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And one last look.

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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.

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A year of construction and they couldn’t even level the place.

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For reference, this is what the old shelters looked like

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A lot of FAX buses will stop here. The stop at the end is for Q.

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Very similar to the previous stop we looked at.

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The ticket kiosk and map.

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But two benches, one with back support, one without.

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This trash can is open for business.

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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.

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Note the location of the push button. This is a good installation. The location we’ll look at downtown was installed badly.

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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.

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(The pedestrian crossing is functional, I pushed the button and it quickly changed)

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From the parking lot.

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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.

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Same design here as the other stops.

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Except this one has a longer roof than the random stop on Blackstone. Only one bench though.

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Other direction

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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.

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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).

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The angle of the red/green arrows is a novelty in Fresno. But the signal on the far left is a waste of money.

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The other shelters in the transfer center were updated. I think the design is pretty cool, but I love Art Deco.

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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?

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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).

A Look at BRT Construction in Fresno

Construction should not take this long.

We last looked at BRT (“bus rapid transit”) construction in Fresno back in January. Eight months later, the thing still isn’t done. We’re not talking about a new tunnel, a new corridor, or anything of significance; just sidewalk extensions and shelters. And apparently that’s just too much for Fresno to manage in a timely manner. It is embarrassing how little is being built and how long that is taking.

This is a project that has been in the works since around 2008. The city council finally signed off on it in 2014. It was supposed to be done, this time for real, in 2016. Now it is supposed to be done in 2018. Maybe.

High Speed Rail is also plagued by delays. The Central Valley segment was supposed to be finished up by the end of this month. In that case though, the delays are a little bit more understandable. It is a brand new corridor, full of tunnels and viaducts. Republican lawmakers have thrown every bit of obstruction that they could muster at it. Property owners took up lawsuit after lawsuit. Out-of-state interests poured in money to kill it.

So more understandable, but certainly still disappointing.

Anyway, this post will look at BRT construction, next one will be HSR.

We start with a typical “station” on Blackstone Avenue. All along the route, sidewalks have been bumped out to provide space for these stops. This one is located adjacent to a delicious Ethiopian Restaurant.

There is nothing about this that screams “two year construction project.”

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Some of the branding is in place with the ticket machines.

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The placement of this station, as is the case with many of them, is pure garbage.

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Look at where the nearest marked crosswalk is.

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This stop further up Blackstone is even worse.

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This is how you encourage illegal crossings.

And then get sued when someone dies.

Now we move to Manchester Center. This is a transfer center that closed in January for construction. One of the busiest stops in the bus system. Surely a priority right?

The main building (where passes were sold) is still there.

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All the other shelters are gone. Does this look like 9 months of hard work?

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On my last post, I mentioned a brand new crosswalk and curb ramp at a new traffic signal.

So brand new that in January it wasn’t officially “open” yet.

January.

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Now.

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What a ridiculous waste of money.

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January

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Now

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And now onto the downtown transfer center, which does look close to being done.

Coming from Fulton Street, you see a new traffic signal.

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BRT buses will actually stop in the center of the roadway, rather than entering the station loops.

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The new median platforms. Really the one and only true BRT feature.

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The BRT stop has a unique design where the two directions face each other.

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Meanwhile, the rest of the station got new shelters as well. While the new ones are certainly more modern and more attractive, the old ones appear to be larger and provide more shelter.

Old

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New

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There is a variety of seating, but not enough shade.

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Another loop area

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And the opposing BRT platform

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I’ve seen 200-house developments go up faster than this. They need to hurry up and get it done.

Fresno downtown and midtown photo update!

This will be my last Fresno construction update photo dump for awhile! Once again, I’ve gotten far behind and my photos are quickly becoming out of date. So rather than 2-3 posts, they’re all going in here!=&0=&=&1=&

A Look at Construction on Fresno’s Fake BRT, and New FAX15 service

Improvements have arrived to Fresno’s bus system (FAX). The most impactful, for riders, was the introduction of FAX15 on January 9th. The initiative saw the return of 15-minute frequencies on portions of route 9 and 38, from 6am to 6pm. What most cities consider “standard service” is a luxury Fresno riders will be happy to have.=&0=&

Can Manchester Center Mall be saved?

Built in 1955, Manchester Center Mall was Fresno’s first foray into the suburban enclosed mall template*. Three and a half miles north of downtown, the Mall promised ample parking and an escape from the weather. The concept was indeed successful, and the mall expanded as the decades went by. =&0=&

Dying mall cancels outdoor market due to popularity, parking concerns

This new development is quite frankly, baffling.

Say you owned a mall built in the 1950’s, that had seen better days. Much better days. Say almost all your national brand retailers had left years ago, and the entire second floor was now being leased to government agencies and other office uses. Say your biggest anchor, one of only two, went bankrupt and liquidated in 2009, and nobody has expressed serious interest in the location yet. And your other anchor, is Sears, a brand that has fallen on tough times.

In fact, your mall is in so much trouble, someone even took it upon themselves to visit it only to write about how it is a dying mall. And that was even written before Gottschalks died. (Lots of pictures of the mall in that link).

Photobucket
http://www.labelscar.com/california/manchester-center

I’m sure as the owner, the idea of turning things around, and getting people to come by would be appealing right?

Then say a group of organizers approached you, and asked to set up a market in one of your vastly underused parking lots, just one day a week. The deal would be beneficial. They’d have space at a well know landmark, and you’d get exposure and even BUZZ(!) something that has been lacking in your mall for decades. And for both parties, the costs would be minimal. It’s like a fancy new mall expansion, but built with aluminum poles and canvas canopies.

Win, win, win.

So the new market starts.

And it’s a success. People keep coming. Your parking lot is filling up for the first time since you opened over 50 years ago. Your mall is being referred to as a place to go to, and not to lock your doors as you drive by. Trendy blogs are telling their readers to check it out.

Indeed it’s so successful, you kick them out after five weeks.

Wait, what?

The owner of Fresno’s newest farmers market, Manchester Marketplace, announced today he is shutting down due to a disagreement with Manchester Mall representatives.

Paul Gilchrist, who opened the market five weeks ago in the mall’s parking, said in an email that the popularity of his market didn’t sit well with Manchester Mall.

“I have been told there were too many cars in the parking lot, there were too many vendors and the outside vendors are getting more business than the inside vendors,” Gilchrist said in an email. Click to read more!