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By show of hands, who likes the Fulton Mall?
OK, everyone “likes” the Fulton Mall, right? Otherwise there wouldn't be any debate over opening it to traffic, or cleaning the broken sidewalks and fountains. If people didn't at least “like” the mall, there wouldn't be any talk about building facades or sound ordinances or free parking.
But that passion seems to exist well beyond its use.
For example: Old ladies who haven't been downtown in 20 years, eagerly throw out theories on what's wrong with the mall. Mayors talk about the need for its revitalization and still it just sits.
It's been a bad month for those of us who really like the Fulton Mall. Milano is closing. The Parsley Cafe is for sale and there are rumors about the Smokehouse, which isn't on the mall proper, but shares its affects.
This comes after a Creative Fresno Blender at the Lofts at 1060, which left me skeptical, but impressed. It follows the on-line chatter over the 1960s documentary “Fresno: A City Reborn,” which caught the attention of many a downtownphile for its massive amount of irony.
Then I read Peter H. King's “The Dream Unravels.” The article, which published in the Los Angeles Times in 1988 is great history of the mall and you should read it now.
It's OK, I'll wait.
Twenty years old, and this story reads like it was written yesterday, that's how little has changed on the mall. It's sad, and I wonder what it must be like for those without my youthful exuberance, those who watched the mall being built, then watched it crumble, and crumble and get left for dead.
The interweaving story lines — Fresno's history of sprawl, its relationship with developers, its seemingly unconditional love of all things shiny and new — make it tough to focus on any one thing long enough to find an answer, but I wonder: Of all the people who “like” the mall, doesn't anyone really care?
I say this realizing the Fulton Mall operates quite well as it is.
When people say “there's nothing on the mall,” what they mean to say is, there's nothing for them on the mall. When they say no one goes to the mall, it's obvious they weren't there on a Saturday afternoon.
Or they just can't see the color brown.
I like the Fulton Mall as is — broken sidewalks and overgrown trees, the swap mall and street preachers and the guy who stands by the clock tower lifting weights and listening to Michael Jackson.
But I also see the potential and it excites me.
There's been movement, sure. There are people living close by now, and more all the time. I'm one of them. This year the mall hosted the HyeFest and the Rev Fest and Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson (and John Cougar if you want to include him). A certified farmers market popped up.
But it's an uphill climb and there's always the chance we'll slip and fall back. That stadium Dylan played at doesn't pay for itself. And I remember Fulton Plaza Thursdays. And Milano.
So, I've put aside Peter King's story, figure I'll pull it out and re-read it in another 20 years and see where we are. You should too. Just as a reminder.
Here's hoping it reads like history next time.