Aug 10, 2020

Campus Pointe moves forward

Campus Pointe, the multi-use retail development planned for just east of campus, can go forward. The city of Fresno reached a settlement with Fresno State Tuesday, ending a long-standing legal battle.

The $167-million project was held up for months over opposition from various interest groups. Construction could begin as early as next month.

Fresno State officials have touted Campus Pointe for over a year.

“The Campus Pointe project will enhance the university and provide housing and services to both the university and the surrounding community,” said Cynthia Matson, vice president for administration, in a press release.

The 45-acre development will be built on Shaw and Chestnut avenues. It will include a 14-screen movie theater, 540 apartments, a 200-room hotel, and 230,000 feet of office and retail space.

The development team will pay for the construction costs, meaning the university will not have to foot the bill. Proceeds from the on-site businesses will go primarily toward paying left-over debt from the Save Mart Center.

Approval from the city of Fresno was the last obstacle to development after Campus Pointe was given the green light in March by both the California State University Board of Trustees and the city of Clovis. The university settled a similar lawsuit with the city of Clovis that month.

One lawsuit remains, however, from the Sierra Vista Mall ownership group in Clovis. But Debbie Astone, executive director of the California State University, Fresno Association, said this would not prevent construction from beginning.

The project will be completed in phases, Astone said, with the estimated duration being between two and two-and-a-half years.

“Grading for the first phase of multi-family housing could begin within the next 30 days pending the final plan check by various agencies,” Astone said.

The university and the private developer for Campus Pointe made some concessions to the city of Fresno in the deal. According to the settlement, the developer, Kashian Enterprises LP, will pay city impact fees — the development’s projected impact on city services.

The city is considering levying fees of approximately $94,000 for sewer and water services, $589,000 for streets, $319,000 for fire protection, $516,000 for police protection and $310,000 for parks.

In addition, Fresno State agreed to provide land to the city of Fresno for a right-of-way for future planned widening of Willow Avenue to six lanes between Barstow and Bullard avenues, as well as improvements at the intersection of Willow and Bullard avenues, Astone said.

The lawsuit by the city of Fresno resulted from controversy over whether a private development on university land should be subject to the city’s oversight. The city also argued that Campus Pointe served a primarily non-educational function and should be subject to city zoning laws and general city control.

The university argued that the project would be on university-owned land and served a primarily educational purpose, so should therefore be exempt from the city’s planning approval process.

“It’s legal what they’re doing,” Fran Blackney, business advocate for the Clovis Chamber of Commerce, said of Fresno State. “But they get special privileges [such as tax exemptions].”

A long-time opponent of the project, Blackney said her biggest beef was with the process, used by public entities, such as the CSU system, to get around city planning ordinances.

The agreement doesn’t settle the underlying dispute on jurisdiction, but both sides seem satisfied with the result.

“This agreement is in keeping with our principles to ensure that development pays its fair share for their impacts on the city,” Fresno City Manager Andy Souza said.

Student reaction was mixed about the potential benefits Campus Pointe may provide.

Junior Alejandra Ramirez, a liberal studies major, said she was opposed to the development.

Besides worrying about a lot of new congestion such a development may create, Ramirez also questioned the location.

“It’s really bad traffic choreography,” she said of the site’s position adjacent to Highway 168.

Ramirez was also unimpressed with the project’s selling points.

“It’s just another place for people to spend their money and hang out,” Ramirez said.

She said Shaw Avenue was way too cluttered with retail outlets as it is.

But Pablo Chavarria, a senior construction management major, said Campus Pointe was a good idea that would create more opportunities for “good recreation and good jobs.”

Chavarria also said that such a complex, which would include a senior retirement home, would draw alumni back to Fresno.

“It would create more of a college atmosphere for Fresno,” Chavarria said.

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