Downtown Dreams No Longer Frozen: Proposed Ice Rink Is The Latest Si


Sanford Nax, The Fresno Bee – California – KRTBN
Published: Aug 15, 2007

A proposed development next to Selland Arena was greeted Tuesday with
excitement by downtown proponents who say it’s in a good location
with potential to meet housing needs.

"If you had to pick a great location, that would be it," real estate
analyst Robin Kane said a day after Brian Glover announced that he
and partner Chris Cummings want to build an ice rink surrounded by
retail space and topped by about 160 apartments on three floors.

The property is near government offices, entertainment and the Old
Armenian Town project, which has kicked off with the construction of
a new appellate court and the prospect of more offices.

Eventually, Armenian Town developers Richard Gunner and George Andros
have plans for three office buildings and two five-story parking
garages on the site just across Ventura Street from Selland Arena.

Glover described his apartments as "the beginning of a small community

He said he and Cummings have a plan to spark that vision. They are
among the partners in the Grizzlies baseball and Fuego soccer teams
that play at nearby Chukchansi Park and the Falcons hockey team that
they plan to move back downtown from the Save Mart Center for the
2008-09 season. The Falcons rent Gateway Ice Center for practices now,
but the future of the west-central Fresno ice rink is in limbo and
the downtown ice rink would resolve that issue.

The apartments in Glover’s project would be rented to the public,
but some of them likely would be set aside for hockey and baseball
players. The seasons overlap for only about a month, and Glover said
the team owners would save substantial housing costs.

The Grizzlies draw about 500,000 people per year, the Falcons
bring in 200,000 people and a public ice rink could attract 100,000
people. Those visitors mean more business for restaurants in the area,
Glover said.

"We saw the effect on the Hofbrau," he said.

The Old Fresno Hofbrau closed in February after 40 years in business,
in part because the Falcons and Fresno State Bulldogs stopped playing
at Selland.

The ice rink proposal was met by some as an opportunity to continue
the revitalization of downtown, especially with the apartments,
which would extend activity beyond office hours.

"There is an 8-to-5 market and no weekend," said Craig Capriotti, an
office leasing agent at Fortune Associates and a downtown businessman.

Downtown has made great strides in recent years, with the office
vacancy rate falling to 10%, from nearly 26% in 1994. It is a
government center with thousands of city, county, state and federal
employees. Advertising agencies and law firms also are relocating
to the area, while the number of service businesses is starting to
pick up.

But coffee shops and restaurants still struggle to survive. That’s
where housing comes in, said Reza Assemi, a developer with more than
140 apartments, row houses and other types of homes finished, under
way or proposed downtown.

The residents will eat and shop in the neighborhood, which will fuel
more demand.

"It builds on itself," Assemi said. "The more people move in, the
more people will want to move in."

But downtown living doesn’t appeal to everyone. Families with children
are more likely to opt for the outskirts, leaving the urban core a
niche market for empty-nesters, young professionals and hard chargers
who like the urban lifestyle, Kane said.

That raises an interesting question — one that no one associated
with downtown has ever had to face: Is there a potential of too
much housing?

Another project — Forest City Enterprises — proposes hundreds
of houses in a mixed-use remake of the area south of Chukchansi
Park. Jeff Linton, a Forest City spokesman, said Tuesday, "We are
still very much in active discussions and are down to the point of
detailing various aspects of the proposal."

Even if the Forest City proposal is realized, Assemi said he doesn’t
anticipate an oversupply of homes.