Tag: van ness

Belated Downtown Fresno Photo Update

I went downtown a couple of months ago (January) to take photos, as I usually do. I hesitated on posting them because frankly, not much has changed over the last year. This is in contrast to five years ago, when there was always a new building popping up.

Then corona hit, and the photos seemed even less relevant, but now I’ve changed my mind on that. With the virus, everything is essentially frozen in time. Nothing is under construction, nothing will be open any time soon, and nobody is lining up to lay down piles of cash on new development. That is, even if the virus suddenly disappeared tomorrow, there are too many questions about the economy for investors. Will people get their jobs back? Will there be a change in demand for office space? Click to read more!

Fresno might get its first protected cycle track!

I’ve been angrily hammering away on an article about the proposed Smart and Final project, but fortunately I found something in this weeks City Council Agenda that has temporarily soothed my nerves: =&0=& and the preparation of a feasibility study for a Class I bicycle trail along the Herndon Canal and Mill Ditch canal banks and to authorize the Public Works Director or designee to sign and execute the standardized agreement on behalf of the City (Council District 1, 3 ,4 and 7)=&1=&

Work underway at GV Urban’s Met Block development

Way back in February of 2013, GV Urban went before the city with their newest apartment proposal. The plan involved building up the Met Block, named after the old Met Museum. The block is between Van Ness and Fulton, and between Calaveras and Stanislaus.

The plan involved keeping the Met (top corner) and restoring the only other building left standing, on the left.

Problem was, the plan sucked. GV Urban proposed sticking in the exact same template they’ve built five other times downtown, but this time with a hideous façade.

For quite possibly the first time ever, the city pushed back against GV Urban. Aside from the ugly façade, the city was concerned that such a prominent block should break GV’s 3-story barrier, as to match the height of the Met.

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So the project went quiet for over a year, at least in the public eye.

Two weeks ago, the Downtown Fresno Blog posted that work had begun, and included this picture:

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That caught me off guard. I had expected to see a new proposal go through the planning board…

And indeed one had, back in May (massive PDF). Looks like I missed that meeting.

So what changed?

Almost nothing. Looks like GV Urban gets their way, again. The site plan is almost identical to what was presented in 2013. That plan included destroying a public park to replace it with private parking and an indoor courtyard. Classic Fresno. The public alley will also be privatized.

The diagram above is from last year, but is easier to see than the updated version, which to my eyes, is identical. It includes:

12 two-story triplex buildings
4 three-story fiveplex buildings
3 three-story mixed use

Total = 85 units 

As for the concern about heights? Not addressed. The buildings still top out at 3 stories, except now it looks just a wee bit taller, thanks to slightly more pitch on the roofs. And the hideous façade? Well, it sort of appears slightly less terrible.

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I’m assuming Granville pulled the “you let us do what we want or you get nothing at all” card and the city caved.

While it’s great to see another 100+ people moving downtown, it’s a shame they’re doing so in such a mediocre project, especially on such a significant block.

On the plus side, the construction is so cheap that no developer will hesitate to knock it down in 20 years to build something better.

 On a completely different subject…

In May I also missed Brandau killing yet another road diet project, while voting yes on every road widening and traffic signal project possible. 

Construction on Droge building well underway!

When I last took pictures of the Droge development in downtown Fresno, it was February, and I was worried about how slow things were progressing. The new residential building was scheduled to replace a century old building that was demolished last year. I was concerned it would be another case of a failed project, leaving behind an empty lot. I also have a special attachment to this project because I have family members who worked for many years in a smaller building which was also demolished. My first experiences downtown as a young kid were at that building, and also parking there to go to events at the Saroyan.

Fortunately, my concern was misplaced. Construction is well underway and the building is looking quite nice. I have some photo updates coming up for other downtown developments, and I will be starting here because I am excited about this building the most.

Aside from looking quite nice so far, the corner is prominent. Many people who rarely venture downtown use the spiral garage to go to stadium events. That means their first impression has gone from a building falling apart, to urban renewal. Helps shake away the “nobody goes downtown” reputation if a nice looking apartment building with lights on sits across the street. 

The project is at Van Ness and Inyo. 

The construction is immediately obvious next to the iconic parking garage. Even better: It’s not dwarfed by the parking.

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You immediately notice that unlike the GV Urban projects, this one is four stories. The difference between 3 and 4 may seem small, but from the street, it makes a world of difference. Especially at a corner. I’m excited to see the additional architectural element on top.

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The building is also not flat, which gives it a lot of texture

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The parcel is large enough that a courtyard exists in the middle, to provide everyone with light. This also helps the walking experience.

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Like the GV projects, no improvements are being made to the alley. However, unlike those which include nasty driveways, here the few cars that will be parked in the building will enter through the alley. Additional parking will be possible in the underused garage next door.

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From here, it even seems larger than the garage! 

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The building extends right to the sidewalk. This might not be great if trees don’t fit.

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Also like the GV projects, zero accommodations were made for pedestrians during construction.

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Next door, what has been many restaurants. Right now, it’s closed again. Maybe the added activity and visibility will make a restaurant here profitable?

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And here’s what it should look like before the end of the year!

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Construction on Droge building progressing slowly

In 2012, the city, via the housing authority, moved forward on the process to tear down the old Droge building and erect a modern four story apartment building. A neighboring building (one which a couple of my family members worked in for many years) was also demolished. This is an interesting building as it’s going up with less parking spaces than is “normal.” And yes, people complained that would cause issues, even though a large garage sits across the street, which is always 99% empty at night.

As an aside: If you’re going to an event at Saroyan or Selland, they charge $8 (or $6?) for parking at the convention center garage. The spiral garage pictured is free after 6pm and all weekends, and is only two blocks away. They do however charge for stadium events (and I’d assume you could park at the convention center garage for free). This is how I know the garage is 99% empty at night.

Last summer, I stopped by the site shortly after the demolition.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the site again to see the progress.

The good news: They are actually building something, so the Droge wasn’t torn down for a failed attempt. The cynic in my wondered if that would be the case.
The bad news: Construction is progressing slowly.

Have a look:

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This will soon be hidden

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I’m not an architect, but this is an odd space.

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Hopefully there’s more building to look at in a couple of months. Depending on how cheaply this is built, it might open before the end of the year.

Bonus: This looks new, and very attractive.
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A look at the site of the demolished Droge building – photo tour

A few weeks ago, the old Droge building was finally demolished. The building had sat at the corner of Van Ness and Inyo for 91 years, although it spent the last years of its life as an eye-sore. Like many buildings in Fresno, being old did not save it from the wrecking ball because it had been left to decay into such bad condition, it wasn’t worth saving.

Supposedly only held up by those metal poles on the sidewalk (which made the building a local icon), it did take some effort from the bulldozers to bring it down. Nether-less, the facade was plain, and the roof was not salvageable.

Fortunately, this building wasn’t just knocked down to build a parking lot. Instead, a new four story building with affordable housing is planned. I talk a little about the project in this post.

Last week, I toured the area and took many pictures. Please enjoy this photo tour.

The site sits on the corner, across from the spiral garage, and a block from the Fulton Mall. 

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Only dirt remains

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Van Ness, looking north

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Van Ness, looking south

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Diagonally across the intersection

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On the east side of the site

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Joe’s Steakhouse

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What used to be a sports bar (and then fancy pizza place), next door

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I then walked towards the Fulton Mall, never noticed that the spiral garage was built over the alley

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The sidewalk to get to the mall. The stores on the right used to be a clothing market, before the city evicted everyone. Before that, it was a department store. Now it’s empty.

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Hopefully a year from now there’s a new building at this construction site.

Comment on newest GV Urban proposal

GV Urban is the subsidiary of Granville Homes which has brought us the only residential development downtown has seen in decades. You know them from the Iron Bird Lofts, Fulton Village, Van Ness Cottages and a few others.

This past week they announced their newest project, which involves the Met block.

The site is home to the former museum, an abandoned commercial building (which GV owns and plans on restoring), a public park, and empty space in what used to be two buildings – the city knocked those down for free.

The block now

The block previously

GV plans to keep the Met and the other existing building, and erect residential structures around them. The public park would be taken away and replaced by a private green accessible only to residents.

As great as it is to see further residential development downtown, the project is far from inspired. The actual buildings would be the very same ones erected twice now on Fulton, but with a new facade – one which comes off as tacky in the rendering. The height wouldn’t match the Met, and the circulation plan includes two driveways on Calaveras. The sidewalk looks small and offers no interaction but a dead wall.


As per all their other projects, all the parking would be on the ground level and in a central surface lot – no underground or structured parking. In fact by area, the majority of the site would be devoted to parking.

I’ll be doing a deeper analysis into the problem of the site plan, but for now, I recommend leaving them a comment, either through their Facebook page or their website.

Tell them you welcome their development, but that Fresno deserves something we can be proud of for fifty years. Such a prime block should see excellent architecture, fantastic pedestrian accommodations and welcoming public amenities. 

Opposing the current plan doesn’t mean opposing development, it means striving for something better. We shouldn’t settle for something sub-par because of the fear that any objection will lead to GV abandoning downtown.