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Valley Public Radio Staff
Thu November 1, 2012
In Fresno, Downtown Planning Effort Faces Fiscal Crunch
The City of Fresno's effort to draft a vision for a revitalized downtown hit a roadblock on Tuesday, after the Fresno City Council rejected a proposal to allocate an additional $70,000 to the project on a 4-3 vote.
City staff told the council that additional funding was necessary because the city had to terminate its contract with the main consultant for the project due to non-performance. The city has already spent over $2 million in federal community development block grant funding on the project, but key elements remain incomplete. The city estimates that it will cost another $700,000 to finish the project, but it only has $560,000 in approved funding left.
In early 2010, the city hired a Pasadena based architecture and planning firm, Moule & Polyzoides (MPA) to lead the effort to re-write the city's development code for downtown, and chart the future for key downtown neighborhoods, including the Fulton pedestrian mall, and the area around the planned high speed rail station. The project was also charged with doing a key environmental study that would support future downtown developments, and the re-introduction of traffic to Fulton Mall.
But according to a city staff report, the decline in the economy forced MPA to reduce its staffing, leaving it unable to complete the project. In an effort to finish the work, city staff wanted to work directly with four subcontractors who had already been working on the project under contract under MPA.
The council rejected the request for an additional $70,000 on the project in a 4-3 vote.
Also on Tuesday, the council moved forward with a plan by council member Lee Brand to to streamline the development process for so-called “infill” projects in the city.
It’s part of an effort to steer growth back into older neighborhoods in the city. The council approved plans to create a special committee and a community task force to recommend ways the city can make it easier to redevelop older neighborhoods.
Brand’s "Infill Development Act" also calls for an inventory of vacant land within the city and to explore a new fee structure to provide incentives to develop in established neighborhoods. The council hopes to complete the work in conjunction with the city’s new 2035 General Plan in the first part of 2013.