Hotel Fresno restoration depends on government financing

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Hotel Fresno turns 100 years old next year. It's been empty and abandoned for more than 30 years but Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is hoping it will soon have a new lease on life.

"This is an incredible building and when it was built back in 1912 it was one of the most luxurious buildings in town, and it's got our namesake, Hotel Fresno, and it desperately needs to be restored."

Southern California Developer Jake Kojikian hopes to turn the seven story building into an apartment complex, with shopping on the ground floor. He's s already completed a similar downtown project, reviving the old Hotel Virginia, and he's working on turning the abandoned Mayflower Apartments into modern new lofts. Mayor Swearengin hopes the Hotel Fresno can be next.

"Just a few years ago it was on the verge of being knocked down because it was in such bad condition, and now having private investors who are putting a financing package together to restore this building is good news for Fresno."

The Mayor sees restoring this old hotel as a major boost for downtown, but City Council President Lee Brand is not convinced it will pay off. Brand is a property manager and he believes the appraisal of the old building is overly optimistic. He also feels the rent projections are not realistic.

"It's over leveraged and over financed, it's a foreclosure waiting to happen."

Brand is concerned because the city council is being asked to approve more than $14-million in financing. The Mayor says the loans will be all Federal and Redevelopment dollars.

"These are not city general fund dollars. The dollars the council is being asked to fund this project could not fund a police officer a parks worker, or one pothole."

And the Mayor says if the project fails, the city won't be on the hook.

But Brand feels taxpayer dollars are at risk. He would be more comfortable with the deal if the developer put up a few more million dollars.

The City Council will consider the financing deal at their meeting on Thursday.

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fresno, fresno county, fresno downtown, ashley swearengin, local, gene haagenson
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