A diamond in the rough. That’s what Los Angeles developer Shay Maghame sees in the 90-year old former J.C. Penney building on downtown Fresno’s Fulton Mall.
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin joined Maghame at a press conference today, announcing plans for apartments and retail in the long vacant building, which overlooks Chukchansi Park.
“We stand ready to make sure this is a good business experience for you,” Swearengin says. “We know we are on the right track and your investment proves it.”
Maghame calls the building “The Diamanti.”
“It means diamond in Greek and it has the relationship of this area being a diamond in the rough and also in connection with the diamond at the baseball field,” Maghame says.
Maghame, who emigrated from Iran to America early in life, said he chose to invest in Fresno for personal reasons. He studied electrical and electronic engineering at Fresno City College and at Fresno State.
The limited liability corporation 959 Fulton Mall LLC purchased the building in July, 2013. Maghame, the managing partner for the group, was an investor in a previous attempt by another developer to renovate the historic structure. He declined to disclose the building's price tag.
The first floor of the building will be designated for commercial use. Maghame says he’s considering a number of possible uses, including a public market or gym.
Around 60 apartments will occupy the building’s upper floors. His plans also include six penthouse style lofts, with a possible rooftop bar that would look out onto Chukchansi Park. He plans to convert the building’s basement into a parking garage.
Maghame says he plans to secure investors before renovations begin. He says he already has architectural plans approved for the building.
“We are looking at Downtown Fresno as one project and with our international connections to probably to bring investors here,” Maghame says. “I believe in Fresno and its administration.”
The six story building was constructed in 1924 as a Radin-Kamp Department store. J.C. Penney occupied the building from 1941 to 1986. It’s been vacant for most of the last decade.
Maghame says the building should be operable in 2015.