U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited Fresno today to formally announce the city's award of a grant for $16 million to transform a part of downtown. FM89's Joe Moore has this report.
Today's event on the Fulton Mall wasn't the first time a Fresno mayor called for the six-block-long pedestrian plaza to be restored to vehicle traffic. But unlike efforts in decades past, this time the city apparently has the money to do it, thanks to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
"Today is a new beginning for your central business district," said Foxx.
Foxx traveled to Fresno today announce the grant before a crowd of several hundred people at the mall's Mariposa Plaza. The federal money will make up the bulk of the estimated $20 million needed to bring back Fulton Street, largely to the way it existed before the mall was built in 1964.
"Part of this vision, is really a revitalization and an inward migration of both business and population back into the central area of Fresno," said Foxx.
According to Foxx, the Fresno project was one of only 52 in the country to receive funding this year, in 37 states.
Congressman Jim Costa praised the project, saying it's long overdue and a necessary step to improve the downtown economy.
"We know that bringing people back to this area means bringing traffic back to the Fulton Mall. Cars bring people, people bring businesses and businesses bring jobs," said Costa.
While Mayor Ashley Swearengin says the funding is now in place, the project is far from ready to break ground. The federal funding is contingent on approval from the city council, which in recent years has started to become more skeptical of the mayor's vision for downtown revitalization.
The council is expected to vote on the project sometime next year.
The grant is part of the DOT's TIGER program, a competitive grant for transportation infrastructure projects. In the case of the Fulton Mall, the project aims to fund the development of a "complete street" an area which can be used by pedestrians, cyclists, cars and public transportation.