Fulton Mall, Fresno
Fulton St is one of the old main shopping and business streets in downtown Fresno. In the 1960s, the core stretch was converted into the pedestrianised Fulton Mall in one of the first, and most artistically interesting, attempts to pedestrianise a core downtown street in order to revitalise the downtown and capture both the attraction of the new shopping centres that were drawing people from downtown as well as a European-old-world feel.
Unfortunately, as of 2012, the results have not been that successful. On the one hand, this is currently one of the most lively parts of downtown, especially on weekends, with pedestrians and stores, but it also highlights some of the scariest aspects of the fact that downtown Fresno declined seriously from its heyday and has yet to really turn around. Many people in the area are homeless or rather dodgy characters otherwise, or simply seem depressed and down on the luck. Stores have bars over their windows and security guards out front everywhere. This tends to make the more dead and empty parts of downtown, those dominated by government buildings and offices rather than retail businesses, actually less uncomfortable than this area. Normally, crowded places are better than empty ones, but in this instance the feel from the people actually present is unpleasant enough to make one feel better in the empty areas.
This is too bad, because downtown Fresno is not only large, but has a lot of character in terms of nice architecture, both old and new, and Fulton Mall really emphasises that. It is ;ined with beautiful old buildings, many very large, showing the city's wealth and vitality back in the 1910s-1940s, and the conversion to the Mall involved a high emphasis on actually making it artistic, not just closing it off, so that there are many interesting sculptures and fountains along the length. It also is lined with beautiful, shady trees.
Fulton Mall is a pedestrian-only street lined with shops and restaurants. It reminds me of Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. It has many benches, shaded by trees, where one can take a break from walking while enjoying the refreshments offered by the food stands there.
Fulton Mall is the original downtown street. Once called J street, in 1877 it was a dirt road lined by woodframed buildings--a flour mill and boarding house owned by Calvin Jones. Dedicated in 1964, Fulton Mall is a paved center of pedestrian activity, shaded by trees and numerous historic high rise buildings dating between 1910 and the 1930's. I found the pavement in need of updating from the fractured concrete slab materials, but otherwise the shade of the trees provided pleasant relief from hot central valley sun. There are a number of sidewalk cafes in approximately six block long Fulton Mall. There are also music venues and fountains.