(Read “Downtown Revitalization Part 1: Damn You, Dan Whitehurst!” here.)
I know, I know. We’ve been talking about downtown revitalization for decades. But now it’s about to actually start. It couldn’t happen without our main street being a main street, no matter how many other things we tried. So I’m going to climb out onto a limb and say that downtown revitalization will begin on the day that Fulton Street re-opens.
Fortunately that day is coming and we have a date. The big launch party will be Saturday, October 21. It is the day that our downtown will function again. Downtowns have a certain form and ours evolved as a main street, with densely packed buildings and sidewalks lined with storefronts. People could drive up to a business, could find nearby parking, could see the action, and could walk to their destination. Once this functionality is returned, life (vitality) will return.
Fulton Street Grand Re-Opening Bash
A group of volunteers is now planning for the grand re-opening party for Fulton and we’d love it if you’d join us. We are meeting every Monday night at Los Panchos (1000 Fulton Street) at 6:30 p.m. This is a fun group who is going to throw a big bash to kick off this new day for our downtown. You can be a part of this historic event by volunteering, taking a leadership role, or becoming a sponsor.
The opening day is a new beginning. When Raleigh, North Carolina re-opened its main thoroughfare, Fayetteville Street, to traffic in 2006, 80,000 people showed up to celebrate! While it’s just one day, it is an important starting point.
We’ll start the celebration with an official ribbon-cutting at 3 p.m., but get there early and we’ll have some local youth playing music to warm up the crowd. At 4 p.m. the party starts! We’ll have a cruise night with cars that are 1964 or older (1964 was the year the Fulton Mall was put in and cruising on Fulton ended). If you have an older car and would like to be among the first to drive on Fulton with your family and friends, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll have multiple beer and wine gardens. Bands will be playing throughout the night. Fulton restaurants will have their outdoor dining set out on the new wide sidewalks and businesses will stay open late.
We’re also looking for businesses, artists, nonprofits, and churches who would like to set up a one night pop-up business in one of the vacant (for now) storefronts. Set up your own art gallery, black box theater, vintage store, blues club, or comedy shop. The Downtown Fresno Partnership will help to find a location.
Revitalization Depends on You
How quickly will downtown revitalize once the form and function of our downtown has been restored? That is anyone’s guess. It will happen as quickly or slowly as our community rallies around our businesses. Ultimately it will be up to the people of the Central San Joaquin Valley to decide.
The City of Fresno has done its part. They have changed the outdated planning rules that held downtown back for so long. The new rules make good development easier by allowing mixed-use buildings, outdoor dining, and rooftop restaurants. They did the planning and environmental studies that led to the funding to renovate Fulton Street. The City helped with the formation of a property owners’ association (PBID), which is the Downtown Fresno Partnership. Those are the steps that only the City could accomplish, the steps that so many other cities have done to prepare the way for their downtowns to revitalize.
Now it’s up to everyone else—the community of business owners, property owners, and customers—to do their part. If people choose to support the businesses in the new Fulton Entertainment District, then those businesses will thrive. Once those businesses are bustling, more businesses will follow. This is the simple formula for success.
In June, I led the FresYes Realty | FresYes.com staff on a tour of Fulton, and someone asked a very astute question. “With all of the difficulties that brick-and-mortar businesses are facing from competition from the internet, how will downtown revitalize?”
We will thrive in the areas where the internet cannot compete. People still want to come together to hear live music, to dance, to see art, to watch sports, to eat, to stroll, to people watch. Downtowns function as gathering places, which becomes even more important when so much of life happens in the digital world.
If you have a group who would like a tour of downtown before the street opens, please send a message to me at email@example.com. To join the Fulton Street Grand Opening Volunteers Facebook group, click here.