“exciting modern stores in the richest part of the city”

In the years after the Fulton Mall project was strangled by Fashion Fair, gangs began to proliferate in downtown Fresno. The most active of these were the Bulldogs (named for the Fresno State mascot), which had split off from the influential Mexican Nuestra Familia gang and its powerful drug distribution system, and, left without a steady income, became a kind of anarchic, violent presence on the Fresno scene. In recent years police have launched various initiatives to get them under control, with mixed success.

In 2009, a young Republican named Ashley Swearengin became mayor of Fresno (replacing the actor Alan Autry, who had served two terms) and brought with her another plan to revitalize downtown Fresno: the city would declare the Fulton Mall a historic zone. The Mall is currently at less than half capacity and most of its tenants are Hispanic vendors who sell textiles and imports. The majority of vendors opposed the plan as it would place new upkeep requirements on them. Meanwhile the City Council voted 4-2 to move forward with a 238-acre development of another mega shopping center built around a Target in the northwest corner of the city.

Another plan Swearengin pitched the council, with the backing of PBID Partners, a non-profit dedicated to revitalizing downtown, sought to reopen some of the mall to car traffic, citing the fact that more than 170 of the 200 pedestrian malls that had been built around the country in the 60s and 70s had closed. The dream of a bustling pedestrian downtown didn’t seem to have worked out anywhere. Swearengin and PBID filed a grant petition for their plan, worth $2.7 million, but last month a City Council scoring committee rejected the proposal by a 6-5 vote, with several members objecting to the idea of spending more money downtown.

Read More | “Fresno” | Michael Thomsen | ?N+1