Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Is City 'Low-Balling' Fresno Businesses on Land Buys for Blackstone-McKinley Underpass?
gvw_edward_smith
By Edward Smith
Published 2 months ago on
April 8, 2024

Four deaths on the Blackstone and McKinley train tracks in the past 10 years, as well as long traffic delays, are why an underpass will be built near Fresno City College. (GV Wire/Edward Smith)

Share

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The city of Fresno is negotiating with businesses and residents around Blackstone and McKinley avenues to figure out the purchase prices for land to build a much-anticipated traffic underpass there.

“What the third party is doing is giving low-ball offers. … I’ve been told that (businesses) should not accept the first offer. They should get an independent appraisal for the business or the property and use that.” — AJ Rassamni, president of the Blackstone Merchant’s Association

Some property owners say they are getting low-balled while other businesses say city rules have zoned them out of one of Fresno’s busiest thoroughfares.

In some cases, offers are coming in 60% of their perceived value, said AJ Rassamni, president of the Blackstone Merchant’s Association.

He also said many of the businesses have been on Blackstone for decades. Customers are used to seeing them there. Rassamni hopes for a temporary zoning change so the car dealers and smog shops that have to relocate can stay on Blackstone Avenue where they get the best exposure to drivers.

He is telling businesses to reject the first offer from the city and take advantage of everything the city has to offer.

“What the third party is doing is giving low-ball offers,” Rassamni said. “Some people may take it. I’ve been told that those people should not accept the first offer. They should get an independent appraisal for the business or the property and use that.”

Why Fresno Needs an Underpass at Blackstone and McKinley

The intersection at Blackstone and McKinley avenues averages 29 trains a day, according to the city of Fresno.

Fresno officials have long recognized the need for an underpass near Fresno City College. Nearly 17,000 motorists travel on Blackstone each day and another 14,000 on McKinley Avenue.

Four people have died on the railroad tracks in the last 10 years.

But the $70 million to $80 million project will displace 27 businesses on 19 parcels and four residential homes.

Randall Morrison, director of capital projects for the city, expects construction to begin in late 2025 with acquisitions throughout.

“We do anticipate moving into the construction phase in late 2025, early 2026 timeframe,” Morrison said. “So there’s still acquisitions continuing throughout this year and into early 2025.”

A rendering shows how the underpasses at Blackstone and McKinley avenues could look. (City of Fresno)

What Businesses Are Saying

Federal and state laws outline how governments acquire property. The city can’t displace businesses or property owners without offering assistance. Offers have to be based on fair-market value and businesses can’t be considered worse off than they were before selling their property.

The city will pay for moving expenses, remodeling, and in some cases marketing for a set time to help let customers know where a business has gone.

One furniture store owner said the city has been helpful in finding a new location. He has been at that corner for 17 years. He doesn’t necessarily want to stay given how expensive it is on Blackstone, he said.

Peter Singh, owner of Star Valley Smog, said he’d like to stay on Blackstone Avenue because he’s been there since 2004. His shop is small so he won’t have too much trouble finding a location, he said. But the offer for his business came in $100,000 less than what he was expecting.

Negotiations Part of the Process: City

The city is giving property owners the first written offers with property owners, said Morrison. He said that objections are part of the process. Property owners can get money from the city to pay for an appraisal.

“It’s just part of the natural process when you go to acquire the property,” Morrison said. “The city goes and may hire a consultant to put together an appraisal. That’s just initiating the process.”

Trains crossing Blackstone and McKinley avenues can delay drivers by several minutes. Four people have died on these railroad tracks in the last 10 years. (GV Wire/Edward Smith)

City Code Pushing Businesses Away from Blackstone

In 2014, Fresno created a new general plan and a new vision for Blackstone. The Better Blackstone plan calls for walkable neighborhoods with mixed-use buildings butting right up to the sidewalk, instead of set back with parking lots in front.

“This infrastructure investment will have a positive impact on our community for generations to come, and I know the city is doing all that it can to engage and accommodate all of the different stakeholders who are involved along the way.” — Fresno City Councilmember Nelson Esparza

The new city code has pushed away the car dealerships and smog shops that for decades have done business on Blackstone. Rassamni said the vacant buildings have created nuisances for the businesses.

“The customers of these small businesses are the neighborhoods,” Rassamni said. “So, when they move and when they move far enough, they are going to lose all these customers, so they’re going to have to build a new customer base.”

Two Blackstone car dealers have said finding locations for car lots is difficult. The city wants buildings right up to the sidewalk for Blackstone Avenue. This makes operating a car dealership difficult.

On the street known for dealerships and smog shops, several car dealerships have closed over the years since the 2014 General Plan was approved. Rassamni counted seven dealerships closed on Blackstone Avenue and 12 on North Abby Street.

Rassamni said he hopes the city would relax zoning rules so the businesses that have been on Blackstone Avenue a longtime can find a place. For nearby businesses, having once-vacant buildings filled by relocating businesses cuts down on crime.

Fresno City Councilmember Nelson Esparza — whose district encompasses much of Blackstone Avenue, including Blackstone and McKinley avenues — said the only comment he could make is that he supports the grade separation and that the city is working toward finding a solution for businesses.

“This infrastructure investment will have a positive impact on our community for generations to come, and I know the city is doing all that it can to engage and accommodate all of the different stakeholders who are involved along the way,” Esparza said.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

DON'T MISS

Take This Memorial Day Quiz Before Warming up the Grill

DON'T MISS

Hate Wasting Money? Use These 7 Hacks to Feed Your Family for Less

DON'T MISS

NCAA and Leagues Back $2.8 Billion Settlement, Setting Stage for Current, Former Athletes to Be Paid

DON'T MISS

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

DON'T MISS

Newsom Promised 1,200 Tiny Homes for Homeless Californians. How Many Are Being Used?

DON'T MISS

Fresno Unified Unveils 5-Year Literacy Plan. What Are the Expectations?

DON'T MISS

Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Teaching Bomb-Making to Person Targeting Authorities

DON'T MISS

UCLA Police Arrest Young Man for Alleged Felony Assault in Attack on Pro-Palestinian Encampment

DON'T MISS

UAW Files Objection to Mercedes Vote, Accuses Company of Intimidating Workers

UP NEXT

Take This Memorial Day Quiz Before Warming up the Grill

UP NEXT

Hate Wasting Money? Use These 7 Hacks to Feed Your Family for Less

UP NEXT

NCAA and Leagues Back $2.8 Billion Settlement, Setting Stage for Current, Former Athletes to Be Paid

UP NEXT

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

UP NEXT

Newsom Promised 1,200 Tiny Homes for Homeless Californians. How Many Are Being Used?

UP NEXT

Fresno Unified Unveils 5-Year Literacy Plan. What Are the Expectations?

UP NEXT

Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Teaching Bomb-Making to Person Targeting Authorities

UP NEXT

UCLA Police Arrest Young Man for Alleged Felony Assault in Attack on Pro-Palestinian Encampment

UP NEXT

UAW Files Objection to Mercedes Vote, Accuses Company of Intimidating Workers

UP NEXT

Fresno County Fruit Trail: Rewards You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

NCAA and Leagues Back $2.8 Billion Settlement, Setting Stage for Current, Former Athletes to Be Paid

16 hours ago

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

16 hours ago

Newsom Promised 1,200 Tiny Homes for Homeless Californians. How Many Are Being Used?

18 hours ago

Fresno Unified Unveils 5-Year Literacy Plan. What Are the Expectations?

18 hours ago

Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Teaching Bomb-Making to Person Targeting Authorities

18 hours ago

UCLA Police Arrest Young Man for Alleged Felony Assault in Attack on Pro-Palestinian Encampment

18 hours ago

UAW Files Objection to Mercedes Vote, Accuses Company of Intimidating Workers

18 hours ago

Fresno County Fruit Trail: Rewards You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

18 hours ago

Rising Stars Tigirlily Gold Wows the Crowd at 93.7 KISS Country Concert

19 hours ago

Get Ready for the Indy 500 With This Look at Parnelli Jones, JC Agajanian & the Willard Battery Special

19 hours ago

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

The California Senate has unanimously passed SB 1432, a bill introduced by Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Merced) to provide a transparent and accou...

2 hours ago

2 hours ago

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

4 hours ago

Take This Memorial Day Quiz Before Warming up the Grill

4 hours ago

Hate Wasting Money? Use These 7 Hacks to Feed Your Family for Less

16 hours ago

NCAA and Leagues Back $2.8 Billion Settlement, Setting Stage for Current, Former Athletes to Be Paid

16 hours ago

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

18 hours ago

Newsom Promised 1,200 Tiny Homes for Homeless Californians. How Many Are Being Used?

18 hours ago

Fresno Unified Unveils 5-Year Literacy Plan. What Are the Expectations?

18 hours ago

Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Teaching Bomb-Making to Person Targeting Authorities

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend