You’ve likely seen many photos of the Downtown Fresno skyline, but have you ever had the chance to see it from 14 stories up? Last weekend, I had the unique opportunity to see our city from the top floor of the Pacific Southwest Building—Fresno’s tallest building—thanks to the free, monthly Fulton Walking Tour. I also learned a lot about Downtown Fresno along the way.
First Stop: CityView at Van Ness
January’s tour, which was called “Views,” began at 9:30 a.m. at the CityView at Van Ness apartments located on the corner of Van Ness and Inyo (each month’s tour has a different focus).
Our tour guide, Craig Scharton, Fund Manager of Fulton Street Investors and FresYes contributor extraordinaire, introduced us to Preston Prince, who is Director of the Fresno Housing Authority. Prince told us that the CityView building was created to provide affordable housing to lower-wage earners working near the Downtown Fresno area.
Federal dollars provided to housing authorities paid for the cost of the building so, without a mortgage debt, the Fresno Housing Authority is able to offer tenants safe, modern housing at a price just high enough to cover the building’s operation but still much lower than typical local rent prices. Prince introduced us to one of the building’s maintenance coordinators, who was once homeless, and who has since written a book, become a resident of the building, and purchased his first car in 17 years.
We also learned that though it may not seem like it at times, homelessness in Fresno has actually considerably decreased over the past five years, though it seems more visible now because the population has spread out across Fresno. The number of Fresnans reporting homelessness was once as high as 5,000, but last year was down to around 1,500.
We were able to tour an apartment that was being prepared for a new tenant, and the space was modern and bright. From there, we ascended to the roof of the building to get a look around from the southern part of downtown.
Next Stop: Fulton Street
The next stop on the tour was at the southern end of Fulton Street (Inyo and Fulton), where we learned about how construction of the area was coming along, and where we were able to see the start of the new thoroughfare and pedestrian path.
Later this year, Fulton Street—formerly Fulton Mall—will be open to vehicle traffic with one lane in each direction, and also to pedestrians, with wide sidewalks and new LED lighting at two different heights. One set of lights will illuminate the walkways below the eventual tree canopy and one will be above to ensure the path is well-lit.
Checking out the Pacific Southwest Building
Our next stop on the tour was the Pacific Southwest Building. According to the history of the building, it was the most expensive skyscraper built statewide between 1920 and 1930, and it remains Fresno’s tallest and likely most-recognizable and iconic building.
The interior of the building has dark hardwood (Tennessee Walnut), marble, and Italian architecture, and is quite beautiful. The gilded ceilings and ornate molding on the walls are elegant reminders of the past.
The ground floor boasts a grand ballroom that is used frequently for formal weddings and City events. Four floors of the building offer prestigious loft-style homes with a view of Chukchansi Park. The top floor is currently under construction and plans exist to create a sky-view bar and grill. The 14th floor balcony is narrow and surrounds the building, giving guests a 360-degree view of the entire Fresno skyline. Coming back down to the ground floor from the 14th provides all who take the stairs with a mind-boggling, exhilarating, and dizzying view of a squared spiral staircase that seems straight out of the movies.
How You Can Join a Future Walking Tour
All in all, our tour experience was really enjoyable and educational—I highly recommend joining in on a future tour. Thanks to Craig for a one-of-a-kind experience touring our great city from a whole new perspective!
Visit Pacific Bank Building During Art Hop Thursday
If you want to get an up-close look at the Pacific Southwest Building this week, Fresno Dance Collective: NOCO will be performing Thursday in the ballroom. It’s a great opportunity to take in some visual art as well as aerial dance performances in Fresno’s tallest building.
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