Large-Scale Project in Fresno Receiving Positive Reviews

One of the most blighted areas in Fresno, Calif., its southwest corner, may be seeing a significant turnaround in the years ahead if a new 888-acre development comes to fruition. The Running Horse master-planned community is slated for a sizable parcel bounded by Whites Bridge, Marks, California and Hughes avenues, just west of Roeding Business Park.

Running Horse is backed by Cypress Investment of Carmel, Calif., and Paul Pugh, senior partner with the San Jose accounting firm of Petrinovich Pugh & Co. Among the recent golf projects Cypress Investment – headed by Tom O’Meara – has been involved with is Clint Eastwood’s new course in Monterey. Pugh is an owner of Cinnabar Hills Golf Club in San Jose and is a past president of the Northern California Golf Association.

Among the more salient features of Running Horse is a 27-hole golf course designed by John Harbottle III. Also planned is a 25,000-square-foot clubhouse, upwards of 1,700 homes, a shopping center, various recreational amenities and a business park.

Fresno’s southwest section has been often ignored by developers. But O’Meara, Pugh and homebuilders view the area – where an acre of land goes from $25,000 to $35,000 versus $100,000 per acre in nearby Clovis and northeast Fresno – as an opportunity.

“We’re trying to bring up the value of southwest Fresno with the golf course,” said Pat Kennedy, a Southern California builder, to writer Sanford Nax of the Fresno Bee. “This won’t be entry-level housing, but they will get more home for their money . . . due to lower land costs.” Kennedy added, “The minute we put in the golf course, the people around us will experience a nice spike in their land values.”

Besides vast amounts of economically priced land, southwest Fresno boasts abundant water and sewer capacity. Also abetting the cause of Running Horse’s developers will be an extension of Freeway 180, a move that may serve as a catalyst for growth in the southwest. “That opens up a part of the city,” said Jeff Harris, director of the Building Industry of the San Joaquin Valley. Harris noted that the freeway extension will bypass most of the area’s blight.

Local officials are excited about the possibilities of Running Horse. Fresno’s director of housing, William Hussmann, commented that city leaders are eager to direct growth to the southwest, west and southeast sections of Fresno. Hussmann told the Bee that Running Horse could alter the shape of the southwest and offer a wide range of housing types.

“The golf course is the thing that makes this different from a large housing proposal,” said Hussmann. “It sits perfectly next to Roeding Business Park and is so close to Chandler airport. And its size is of such significance that it would by itself change the market and the market’s perception as a place to build quality homes.”

As part of its proposal, Cypress Investment and Pugh offered to donate 37 acres at Church and Marks avenues for a $62-million state-operated veterans home. After considerable discussions, the new site is the preferred choice of veterans groups. O’Meara said the golf course is in the final design stages and that construction could begin in October 2003. Fourteen of the holes on the initial 18 will be guarded by water hazards.