Great cities have great downtowns.
In the most recent decade, Downtown Fresno has experienced a rebirth. Part of the overall urban transformation, and key to economic success for the City of Fresno, is revitalization in the heart of the downtown. An area once overwhelmed with an unhoused population, small and struggling multigenerational storefronts, and decaying buildings is now turning around. The combination of a tight-knit community fighting for improvement by capitalizing on government grants for revitalization and developers putting “skin in the game” has begun to turn the once blighted area into a gem. Because of a strong commitment from Fresno City, civic and business leaders, along with informed developers like Reza Assemi and Jamin Brazil who recently invested the revitalization of the Sun Stereo building, Fresno is undergoing an urban transformation using a simple formula – revitalizing historic buildings, creating community events, and investing in entrepreneurship.
The Sun Stereo building, constructed in 1918 features oversized glass doors that open to an expansive gathering space inside. The original concrete columns and flared capitals were exposed, and a mix of old brick and wood all celebrate the building’s history. The freshness of new furniture, fresh white paint and minimal black light fixtures capture an appropriate balance between historic and new. The original wood roof trusses and exposed brick were in excellent condition as were the existing skylights on the second floor. These elements were identified as the character-defining features of the space and inspired the final design. A key decision was made to remove a portion of the second floor to create a grand double height entry lobby for the offices above.
The building, located at 736 Fulton Street, is listed on the Local Register of Historic Places. The Eymann-Suderman Hardware Co. was the original owner/occupant. Subsequent uses include a WPA (A New Deal program – Works Progress Administration) sewing project, a warehouse for Sun Stereo and the Fresno County Archives Department in the 1980s. Today, pillar tenants bring crowds inside the historic building, breathing new life into the space. Tenants and downtown supporters like Joy’s Velitas candle bar, Felice’s photography studio Happy Day, Sam Lazcano’s artist space, Kelly’s Aerial Space, Art by Ella, Widow’s Walk Tattoo, Downtown Society Collective, Celfie Ready, Flower Market (California), and weekly Farmer’s Market have “fostered the growth and relationships inside the space,” says developer Assemi. “Growth and popularity has been organic. Tenants were each hand-selected, based on word of mouth and existing relationships, bringing hard-working entrepreneurs together.”
Kelly Brianne Karkoska, owner of Aerial Space (Downtown Fresno) and Downtown Society Collective, speaks to the resurgence of our city’s eclectic downtown:
“Downtown Fresno is the heart of our city. It has always been a dream for my businesses to be in a vibrant Downtown location. Sun Stereo Warehouse provides a diverse, unique space that has so much potential for use. Having community space to hold events and workshops gives us (as small business owners) an advantage that other buildings in the area just don’t have.”
Felice Diaz-Lopez, Sun Stereo Warehouse building manager and tenant-owner of Happy Day Photography, sums it up beautifully: “Sun Stereo Warehouse is really my little getaway. I bring my photography clients into the building and the first comment from them is, “Wow! This place is so cool!.” Followed by a reference to a place they have been to in a big city like LA or Chicago. I believe it’s the old features of the building combined with the new modern details. It makes me proud to not only work within these walls but excited to do my work here, everyday.”