Swearengin lauds change at Downtown Breakfast

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin told those who attended today’s State of Downtown Breakfast that “It’s time to believe.”Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin told those who attended today’s State of Downtown Breakfast that “It’s time to believe.”Mayor Ashley Swearengin said today that Fresno residents have trained themselves to be cynical about downtown revitalization by adopting an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude that is holding them back.

Swearengin told a packed house at the State of Downtown Breakfast held at the Pacific Southwest Building on Fulton Mall that it is impossible to believe in Fresno and not believe in downtown.

“My number one job for the next four years is to make sure that Fresno changes its mind about itself,” she said. “It starts here with downtown.”

Downtown Fresno Partnership president and CEO Kate Borders answered critics who say that “no one comes downtown” because ‘there is nothing to do” with examples to the contrary, including the popularity of the temporary ice skating rink that was set up on the Mall during the holiday season. The rink was financed in part by the “Over the Edge” event where 42 thrill seekers rappelled down 15 stories of the Pacific Southwest Building in June.

More than 31,000 skaters enjoyed the ice rink from November 9 to January 10. The Downtown Fresno Partnership estimates that 162,950 people attended their events during 2012.

“The key is to explore and find it,” Borders said.

The keynote speaker was Henry Beer, a resident of Boulder, Colo. and a member of the design team for the Pearl Street Mall, a four block pedestrian mall that has a number of locally-owned and operated businesses and restaurants and is a popular destination for tourists visiting Boulder.

Beer addressed the crowd before a number of television cameras and directly in front of a table where Mayor Swearengin and Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer were among the guests.

“I’m a little nervous,” Beer joked. “There’s a light shining in my eyes and a cop sitting right here.”

Beer said that Fresno has a sense of graciousness and hospitality as well as a warm climate that are assets to the community.

“When people come to visit, we want downtown to be the first place they want to see,” Beer said. “This place needs to be made visible and accessible.”

Swearengin said that the only thing worse than going through all of the necessary change is to stay the same.

“We’re in the red zone, and it’s time to move the ball across the goal line,” she said.