Tower Theatre

Soreath Hok / Valley Public Radio

Along Fern Avenue in the Tower District, businesses are boarded up, some lined with graffiti. There’s trash piled in the doorways.

But on this sunny Saturday afternoon, volunteers move brooms along the sidewalk and sweep the debris into boxes. There’s an upbeat feeling about their work. 

 

 

One of the cleaning crew is Kacey Auston. She grew up in the Tower and is now leasing the former Bank of America building on this street. It’s still empty but she plans on opening a marijuana dispensary called Cookies Fresno. 

 

The sale of Fresno’s historic Tower Theatre is raising concerns among businesses and residents. The buyer, Adventure Church, currently holds Sunday services at the theatre. But according to Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, that’s a violation of current zoning laws. 

“We researched our land use and code on what is authorized and we have gotten a determination that actually the current use of religious assembly is not allowed,” says Soria. 

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We’ll hear firsthand accounts of how COVID-19 has impacted conditions for those working in the fields.

We also talk to a reporter who spent three weeks in Kern County’s corner of the Mojave Desert. Her new podcast investigates false promises of wealth in California City. 

And, we discuss what will happen to Valley renters out of work because of COVID-19 and potentially facing homelessness when the state’s eviction moratorium is lifted.

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above. 

Courtesy of Tower Theatre and Visalia Fox Theatre

Performing arts venues have been dark since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March - including some of the Central Valley’s most historic theatres. But efforts are taking place to help these landmarks weather the storm.

To learn more, Valley Edition host Kathleen Schock spoke with Laurance Abbate, CFO of The Tower Theatre in Fresno, and Vikky Escobedo, Executive Director of the Fox Theatre in Visalia.

Jake Shimabukuro

Ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro has been stretching the boundaries of the instrument’s capabilities for a couple of decades now. A mid-2000’s YouTube video of him went viral and brought him to worldwide recognition. He is currently winding up a US tour, working his way down the West coast, before heading to Japan for a month of tour dates. His latest album, The Greatest Day, was released in late 2018 to critical acclaim. His trio are performing Sunday October 20th at the Tower Theatre in Fresno.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

This year, the Tower Theatre in Fresno turns 80 years old. The theatre’s iconic marquee and tower have flashed fluorescent pink and purple since it opened in 1939. 

“The Memorial Auditorium was built then, and so the Tower Theatre was really the very last of those big, glorious, neon-lit theaters,” says Elizabeth Laval, President of the Fresno Historical Society. 

She says one of the theatre’s developers was A. Emory Wishon, who worked for the utility company San Joaquin Light and Power.