Delayed for 13 Years, Downtown Project Likely to Get Another Extension
A downtown Fresno project 13 years in the making that was supposed to open in 2019 may receive another extension.
Originally known as the South Stadium project on Fulton Street, between Inyo and Kern— south of Chukchansi Park, home of the minor league Fresno Grizzlies — developers Noyan Frazier Capital, L.P. have planned a multi-story, mixed-use project on 5.32 acres.
The developers and the city entered into negotiations for the city-owned property in 2014 — deals known as Disposition and Development Agreements. The documents lay out the particulars including how the property is to be used, timelines and how it will be funded.
The city agreed to sell some of the land to the Noyan Frazier group for $1 a parcel. Other parcels went for market price.
The Fresno City Council is expected to vote in a special meeting this week on whether to give the partnership more time to deliver the project. The body discussed the issue on Aug. 18, but because of a recusal (Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria) and an illness (Councilman Mike Karbassi), the extension received four votes. It needed five to pass.
If the extension is granted, the new construction completion date will be pushed to April 30, 2025 — six years behind schedule. Without the extension, state funding for the project will expire.
The revised plan for the project — now called The Park — includes nearly doubling the residential units from 54 to 99, and doubling the affordable units from 10 to 20. The development’s price tag also increased from $20 million to $32 million.
The new deadline would extend the close of escrow from Wednesday to Dec. 31.
The Frazier Problem
The “Frazier” in Noyan Frazier is businessman Terance Frazier. His involvement in the project has caused concerns for at least one city councilman.
Frazier, through his nonprofit, operates the city-owned Granite Park sports facility. A questionable audit of the park’s finances led to Frazier filing a lawsuit against the city. That action is pending in federal court.
City Councilman Garry Bredefeld has long been a Frazier critic. While he praised Noyan at the Aug. 18, 2022 meeting, the favorable words did not extend to Frazier.
“The city has had significant difficulty with Mr. Frazier related to Grant Park, with audits, with my colleagues being locked out of parks in his district and other issues,” Bredefeld said from the dais. “Based on that track record and the history of promises made that things would move along, which it hasn’t. I struggle with being able to support you.”
Noyan said he didn’t know how to respond to Bredefeld’s objections.
Councilman Miguel Arias said it was unfair, and possibly opened the city to litigation, if the city discriminated against a developer based on a pending lawsuit.
Frazier is also involved in a romantic relationship with Soria. While the two had a wedding ceremony last year, the legal status of their union is unclear. Either way, Soria has recused herself from voting on items involving Frazier.
To possibly alleviate the problem, Frazier confirmed to GV Wire he plans to divest himself of the project (first reported by The Fresno Bee). Whether that can happen before the city council’s special meeting and whether such a move would allow Soria to vote are unclear. Frazier said his exit should be completed by Monday.
Frazier referred further questions to his partner, Mehmet Noyan — who declined comment for this story.
Bredefeld said he would consider Frazier’s departure from the project in deciding how to vote on the extension.
Why the Delay
Noyan previously said he has eyed the project for five years, when the City Council granted Noyan Frazier — in 2014 — the right to develop South Stadium. He warned the council it would be a long-range project.
“My assumption is that there’ll be a lot of cars on Fulton Street before we put a shovel in the ground,” Noyan said.
Fulton Street reopened to street traffic in 2017 — it had been a pedestrian mall for more than 30 years.
Although Noyan nor Frazier would explain why things were delayed for so long, Councilman Miguel Arias offered a comment.
“(South Stadium) is a first — a brand new build from the ground up on Fulton Street, which has been a significant challenge for us. Specifically, they required multiple layers of funding. It all took multiple years to secure,” Arias said.
Arias said the project is fully funded through public and private sources.
At a City Council meeting on Aug. 18, Noyan explained the latest problem was a required redesign of the first floor to address flood control issues.
More redesign was required, Arias said, as to not “tear up Fulton Street.” To do so would require the city to repay the federal government $20 million for a grant that helped pay for the street’s restoration.
Personnel changes in the city planning department complicated deadlines, Arias said.
City Granted Right to Build in 2014
The city sought a request for proposals on how to rebuild a block of Fulton Mall eight years ago.
Three companies submitted plans — the Noyan-Frazier group, Granville Homes, and GrapeVine Advisors, LLC. The Fresno City Council selected Noyan Frazier on Oct. 30, 2014, by a 7-0 vote.
Darius Assemi, CEO and president of Granville Homes, publishes GV Wire.
The first DDA was approved Feb. 25, 2016 with an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2017. Construction was supposed to be completed no later than June 30, 2019.
The Council extended the DDA several times — in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Reasons for the extensions included increased costs, the COVID pandemic, and a need for redesign.
Comparisons to Tutelian Project
Councilman Miguel Arias said allowing numerous extensions for the South Stadium project differs from the city not extending timelines for a proposed development further northwest on Fulton Street from another developer.
Cliff Tutelian wanted to build a mixed-use project in the parking lot of the current CVS Pharmacy at Fulton and Merced streets. The City Council voted not to extend an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement — a slightly different arrangement than a DDA — with Tutelian in 2021
Arias said the main differences included Tutelian not having control of the land he wanted to develop, and that he did not have financing in place.
“There was no land control there, ever. And that’s why the city said ‘you have no land control, you have no financing for your project,’ which I’m assuming that financing would be critical for a private property owner to enter and an agreement to develop the property,” Arias said.
Arias said South Stadium successfully completed the first phase of the project, demolishing buildings that were on the property.
Tutelian sued the city, claiming Arias engaged in a political shakedown — demanding political contributions for a negotiation extension.
A judge recently ruled in Arias’ favor, dismissing him from the lawsuit and potentially placing Tutelian on the hook for more than $30,000 in legal fees. The judge found that Tutelian likely did not have evidence to support his claims.