The City of Hanford would be wise to heed the warnings, or rather catastrophes, of its northerly neighbor.
Dairytown, now the proud home of a brand-spankin’-new Costco and Dunkin’ Donuts, is quickly on its way to becoming baby Fresno. And not in a good way.
Amid booming development in all corners of the map but downtown Hanford, the Hanford City Council is facing heat to turn around the central business district. On the prized target list: a major renovation of “The Bastille,” Kings County’s former jailhouse turned woefully-outdated commercial space.
If this sounds like Fresno’s Met Museum, you’d be close to the mark but still off. Estimates to renovate The Bastille, according to The Hanford Sentinel, would cost Hanford taxpayers a minimum of $1 million to bring the building up to snuff.
Hanford lawmakers only budgeted $600,000 for a seismic retrofit.
The Sentinel also reported that the last tenant was a night club that broke free from the old jail in 2009. That $1 million minimum price tag for renovation, by the way, doesn’t include modernizing the kitchen or other facilities for modern tenants.
In the distance, I’m sure Hanford Councilman Justin Mendes can hear the echoes of short-lived partying at Cabo Wabo, The Edge, LeReve, Club Rome and Club Imperio in Fresno. It’s the low roar of big promises, broken dreams, and agonizing hangovers. That’s why Mendes opted for unflinching criticism of the slapdash plan.
Where were those clubs? At City of Fresno-owned Granite Park, of course. It was a developer’s dream to turn east-central Fresno into a commercial and baseball hub that went belly-up and placed on Fresno’s Taxpayers Express card.
In the mean time, Hanford has another ancient building needing upgrades, too. The city’s Old Courthouse, which is now leased out for commercial-retail-restaurant tenants is also in need of a half-million-dollars worth of upgrades.
Anyone who paid the slightest attention to Fresno from 2009 through the present knows that the Ash Tree City’s indebted entanglements (Chukchansi Park, Granite Park, The Met, No Neighborhood Left Behind, et al.) left us aimlessly hurtling toward U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The moves to renovate the empty, inhabitable Bastille is just another trademark Hanford’s byzantine development strategy, driven by misinformed drumbeating.
After two sales tax hike proposals failed in 2014 and 2016, Hanford’s voters don’t have the appetite to blow money on frivolous whims thought up by politicians. No matter, politicians reply, we’ll go to bond buyers and stick you with the bill to pay off the loan and interest.
The tragedy is that such strategy is killing Dairytown’s chances to become a standalone economic hub for the south Valley.
Hanford, the jig is up. Time to get the Bastille off the city’s balance sheet, give up the debt-driven pipe dream, and let a developer plant new seeds for the site.
No one wants to become the next Fresno, debt-addled and on the brink. Especially not a city on the rise.