FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – It’s a fight to preserve history and the Armenian culture in Fresno and the area many want to see districted as “Old Armenian Town.”
Monday night, the Historic Preservation Commission met at city hall. A handful of people spoke out expressing their frustrations with the lack of transparency and communication when it comes to preserving the Armenian culture in Fresno.
“24 years later, we’re still begging to preserve Fresnos culture and history,” said Commissioner Christopher Rocha.
Commissioner Christopher Rocha read pages of a letter he hopes reaches the desk of Mayor Jerry Dyer and the city council. Rocha like many others has been pushing to get something done for over two decades.
“I don’t understand why it has to be such a fight to get this done”, “In 1998 when this whole project began my late father was one of the people on that committee with the redevelopment agency,” said Raffy Chekerdemain, Chairman of the Armenian Cultural Foundation.
The plan for “Old Armenian Town” was discussed to be the exit at O street and Hwy 41, all the way to M street, then from Ventura to the wall of the freeway.
“It used to be originally 60 blocks were standing on historic Armenian town quantifiable by deeds, plot maps, and photos. Year by year by year they just eroded it away,” said Vanush Ghatchadurian.
“We left areas because of persecution it feels like we’re being persecuted again,” added Chekerdemain.
Residents are saying that the redevelopment agency has been trying to figure out what to do with an area that includes a church, a commercial bakery, and numerous working-class houses. Thieves and squatters vandalized some areas.
A fire broke out in June of 2020 on M street, collapsing one historic house and leaving another heavily damaged. Back in September, the city council took a vote to rehab the homes that were burned down to transform them into low-income housing.
“I’m very frustrated because part of it is our fault too because we need to speak up every time somebody is lying when people aren’t following the original agreements and contracts”
Many are still hopeful that this time around things will be different.
“I hope the city council will go and designate that whole area as a historic area for us and not just the homes that whole area that’s left,” said Chekerdemain.
Comments and concerns were turned in to the historic preservation commission and hopefully, soon will be read by the city council.