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Movin' on up into downtown
Let's say it, like a mantra for downtown housing.
"If you build it, they will come. If you build it, they will come. If you build it..."
It's true, don't you know?
Saundra King has seen it firsthand.
Last Friday, people packed elevators to get a glimpse of the Lofts at 1060 Fulton, her project under way in the old Security Bank building. Guests chugged up 11 flights of stairs to see the luxury lofts with views of Chukchansi Park. King has already sold four of the 16 lofts and had another 30 sign up to receive more information.
Both of Reza Assemi's downtown residential projects (the Pearl Building on Fulton Street and the Vagabond Lofts, a few blocks over) are full and thriving.
That's a good sign for downtown development.
Another mantra Assemi spouts: "Retail follows rooftops."
As people move downtown, so will businesses, he says.
"I'm not in the restaurant business. But if I was, I wouldn't come down here."
Not yet, anyway.
But the signs are hopeful. Rumors and speculation have it that lofts could be planned for Hotel Fresno (just purchased by the same developer that's revamping the Hotel Virginia), the JC Penny Building and the old Black's Packing store on Inyo and Van Ness streets.
Famous looks at a few projects already in progress:
H Street Artist Lofts
Quick facts: Built on the site of the old Army Induction Center (and later H St. Studios), this project — from Assemi — features two floor plans for 26 residential rental units at H and Sacramento streets.
Timeline: Construction on the lofts has already begun, with two of the three buildings already framed. Assemi hopes to have people moving in by the end of the year.
The good: As an artist, Assemi put thought into every aspect of the building's design. Its features reflect the history of its location, with metal facades and exposed wood beams that replicate the feel of the railroad just across H Street. Inside, the lofts' windows continue the feeling of watching the passing trains, with one long, narrow window that perfectly frames the tracks. "This is exactly the reason for it," Assemi says, watching from the window as a train slowly drags by. This place just looks cool.
The bad:Living next to the tracks might not be for everyone.
Final thoughts: Having another 30 residents sharing common space with those already at the Vagabond Lofts will go a long way to increase the sense of community in the area.
The Lofts at 1060 Fulton
Quick facts: Located directly on the Fulton Mall, this project, in the Security Bank Building (which King has renamed 1060 Fulton St.) has been in the works for the better part of eight years. It will be built out in two phases, the first including 16 lofts (at 1,000 to 1,200 square feet) on floors 11 to 14.
Timeline: King hopes to have the first phase completed by the end of the year. The 11th floor should be done within the next two months.
The good:Luxury. Not just in the lofts — yes, there's those views of the ballpark, the spa-style showers and top-of-the-line cooktops — but throughout the building. That includes private underground parking, an upscale salon and deli on the second floor, the ballroom (with those beautifully high ceilings) and the vault room, which King plans to turn into a small-scale jazz club.
The bad:Luxury costs. That means the lofts are out of the price range for many of us. But they will appeal to those risk-takers with the money to spend. And we need that draw downtown. This is only part of the larger process, King says.
Final thoughts: Phase two of the project will convert the top two floors into ultra-swank penthouse lofts. The 15th floor will feature two of them, at 2,200 square-feet, with access to the building's outer railing (how f'in cool is that?). The 16th floor will have a single 5,000-square-foot penthouse loft. With a good pair of binoculars, one could get a close-up look at Running Horse Golf Course (hint-hint, wink-wink). It would be perfect for a certain billionaire in Fresno on business. Or maybe his apprentice. "Donald, do I have a penthouse for you," King says.
Quick facts: Assemi's next project, the Fulton Plaza will build 80 residential units and 16,000 feet of commercial space on the vacant land bordered by Divisadero, Sacramento, Fulton and Broadway streets. It will include flats, lofts and row houses, interspersed with a public piazza and lots of green space.
Timeline: The project is out of site-plan review and Assemi will be submitting for permits in August. He hopes to be totally up and running by February 2008.
The good: Location, location, location. The Plaza will be in the heart of what is being billed as the Cultural Arts District, with museums, art galleries, restaurants, bars and concert venues (Tokyo Garden, Rainbow Ballroom, Warnors Theater, The Star Palace) already within walking (OK, biking) distance.
The bad: At that, it will take awhile for this to be an established neighborhood, and simple amenities (a grocery or drug store) are still a car-ride away.
Final thoughts: Having row housing will add a needed sense of buy-in to the area, Assemi says, with residents committing to much more than a 1-year rental agreement. The plan calls for 16 row houses, each with three stories and attached garages.