UPDATED: 5/17/13 (see below)
Could Fresno foodies soon be enjoying a gourmet meal at the top of the tallest privately-owned building in Central California?
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin suggested as much with this interesting nugget of information during her State of the City address today:
"Plans were just submitted in this particular city's downtown for a high-end restaurant and lounge on the 15th and 16th floors of the tallest building in Central California."
That building would be the Pacific Southwest Building, located at 1060 Fulton Mall. Built in 1923, and still an iconic part of the city's skyline, the tower is better known to many Fresnans as the old Security Bank Building.
Several of the top floors of old office building were converted into luxury loft apartments within the last decade by one of the building's previous owners, Saundra King.
The landmark changed hands in 2011 after King ran into financial problems, eventually winding up in the hands of a bank. In September of 2011, the current owner, Southern California developer Sevak Kachadurian acquired the property for an undisclosed amount. Kachadurian has continued to lease out the loft apartments, while renovating the building's ground floor ballroom. The building's second floor is occupied by a hair salon.
It's unclear when the restaurant might open, or the principals involved with the venture. Officials with the city declined to comment on the specifics of the plans.
If and when the restaurant project actually opens, it would fill a void for "fine dining" in the downtown area. The longtime Fresno restaurant "Upstairs Downtown" closed its doors on P Street back in 2007. The last attempt to bring higher-end cuisine downtown, a restaurant known as "Brick," closed last year after opening earlier in 2012. In February of this year, another upper end dining establishment, "The Downtown Club" also closed.
Would you make the trip downtown for a high-end restaurant with views of the city?
In an interview with Valley Public Radio, the City of Fresno's Business Development Director, Craig Scharton says he anticipates that the restaurant and lounge could open sometime "within six to 12 months." He says the project has cleared the initial hurdle of designing an emergency exit system for the 90-year-old building that could accommodate the new use. The venue will also include live entertainment.
"The idea is to create a really special place where people would want to go and enjoy a view and be able to take friends from out of town and show them a really incredible view. A place where people might go to propose, or they might be interested in going for an anniversary or a special birthday," says Scharton. "It's really to create a special place that will have music and it will have dancing, and a full service restaurant. "
Scharton says the concept will cover the top two floors which are currently vacant. The 16th floor space features a vaulted ceiling under the building's pyramid-topped roof. He says the building owners are conducting acoustic studies to ensure that noise from the lounge doesn't cause problems for the tenants of the lofts on the lower floors.
He says that partners in the venture are friends with the building's owner Sevak Kachadurian, and have "international restaurant experience."
For those curious as to what the view might look like, Instragram user @Andrewtoschi has this evening photo of the view from one of the building's lower floors: http://instagram.com/p/NG81yvRr4b/
Other highlights from our interview with Scharton:
Scharton on the view:
"From the balcony you can get 360 degree views, you see the lights in all directions, you can see the sunset over the Coast Range every evening, you can see into the baseball park. There's really nothing else like it. Even the cool view at the [Holiday Inn] Skyroom is just pointed in one direction. This building, the shape of the inside, the views, it's just going to be spectacular."
On how this fits into the city's downtown revitalization strategy:
"The real goal of revitalization is to not offer the same thing that everyone else already has at their fingertips in the suburbs. And one of the things that we have to offer is this incredible view, and the other thing is great historic character of the building. So we really look for things like this that are going to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market. And also to create a destination, it's not just for Fresno, it's for all of the surrounding communities that are looking for a really special dining experience."
On the current status of the project:
"The first trick was getting through, kind of figuring out the [emergency] exiting and all of that stuff that needs to happen, because of course those floors weren't built for 400 or 500 people. So we worked really closely with the Fire Department and they came up with some really creative ideas with the developer's architect Scott Vincent, a local Fresno architect. So we got through that hurdle and now they're just working on the plans, where the kitchen is going to go, where are the tables going to go."