Friday, July 22, 2005

Plaza Lofts

Plaza Lofts
J Street between 8th and 9th Street ("The Hole in the Ground")
225 Loft Units (40 Affordable Units)
21K Ground Floor Retail Space
Developer: CIM Group
Architect: LPA, Sacramento
Groundbreaking: Feb 2004
Completion: April 2006

The elegant story residential building is the real residential catalyst for downtown Sacramento. The site of this development is the infamous "hole in the ground" on J Street. For those who have been around Sacramento for a while know that this "hole in the ground" has been plaguing our central city for decades.

A little history behind this site starts around 1999 when developer Dean Ingemanson purchased roughly 1/2 of the site (other half was owned by the city) in bankruptcy court for roughly 2 million dollars and proposed building a 32 story mixed-use building that would be the new tallest in Sacramento. The building was called Metro Place

The building would have consisted of ground floor retail, office space that would be used by the City of Sacramento as it's administrative offices, and 114 apartments on the top 10 floors. This was the proposals city officials and downtown advocates had been waiting years for. Retail, office space and much needed housing all in one project. The project would have cost the city roughly 16 million dollars in redevelopment subsidy, loans and land. With the opportunity to finally get rid of the most blight part of downtown, the money was well worth it.

Problems arose over the next couple of years variety from:

- A downturn in the office leasing market. Even though Sacramento was experiencing one of the lowest vacancy percents in the nation, Sacramento was commonly lumped into the same bucket as San Francisco, which was experience tremendously high vacancy rates
- The sad passing away of Mayor Serna. Interim Mayor Jimmy Yee successfully lobbied to have the new office for Sacramento built behind City Hall
- Banks were very skeptical about do a loan for such a novel project for Sacramento, even though mixed-use was common in many other large cities
- City of Sacramento's planning and building departments were terribly slow in processing the application which cause the project to be approved during a lending slow down.

After years of trying to make the project work, realizing that Metro Place will not be able to get built, in 2002 the City of Sacramento struck a deal with CIM Group of Hollywood to develop the mixd-use project we see under construction today.

The development deal was agreed on with the same subsidy as what was available for Metro Place (~16M). The Ingemanson land was taken via eminate domain and give to CIM Group and construction began in Feb 2004 and will be completed sometime early in 2006.

My take on the project:
I think this is a great project for downtown. First and foremost, it gets rid of the more blighted part of downtown, second we finally get some downtown housing.

Many people I know do not like the project because they feel that is was a waste not to build a high-rise on that parcel. I disagree. Not everything has to be a high-rise to make our central city more livable and full of excitement. Plus, this building has a density of around 190 units per acre. That's just as dense as most high-risesYes, Metro Place would have been a nice building in our skyline, but this development give more of what we need downtown, housing!

This development has over 100 more units than the original Metro Place. That could mean as much as 150 more people to eat at restaurants, shop at the mall and give our streets life after 5pm and on weekends.

A design feature I like is the glass look of the building. This building will definitely light up this section of downtown with it's tall windows, openness, and light that will be projected from the units. One minor aspect that I REALLY like is that while the height doesn't matter, it's tall enough to cover up that ugly parking garage from the Renaissance Tower that faced J Street. From the construction picture below, you will be able to see what I am talking about. (Look at he back section of the building)

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