Monday, February 27, 2006

Smart Infill Development

This is a great example of how most parts of Sacramento need to grow in order to become a true urban center.

Not the biggest of projects, and while I prefer to see much more dense projects in downtown proper, if you put enough of these mixed use projects in established neighborhoods such as Midtown, on Alhambra Blvd and Broadway, in Oak Park and even in parts of East Sac and Land Park, walkable neighborhoods begin to form and existing ones are further enhanced. People walking, not driving to the retail in these projects make for great urban neighborhoods.

Midtown is already the most dense area of Sacramento, infill projects like this, and some that are are bigger (like 18th and L and L Street Lofts) are what is going to turn midtown into what is already a good place into an even better urban environment.

Pedestrian-friendly project with 'pop' planned on R Street corridor
By Bob Shallit -- Bee Columnist. Published 2:15 am PST Monday, February 27, 2006

One of the city's top "infill" development companies has set its sights on the hot R Street corridor with plans for homes, apartments and a restaurant on a narrow lot at the northwest corner of R and 27th.

New Faze Development expects to break ground on the complex next month and have it completed in the first quarter of next year.

The project - called "Alchemy at R Street" - has a quirky, hard-edged design that brings "pop" to the neighborhood, says Martin Tuttle, a New Faze vice president.

It seems to fit with city and private plans to make R Street a pedestrian-friendly stretch of apartments, condos, restaurants and retail shops.

Tuttle says New Faze plans to create a brand around the "Alchemy" concept, based on the notion of taking difficult sites and "turning them into gold."

A second Alchemy project is planned at 34th Street and First Avenue in Oak Park. Others are to follow.

The R Street project, designed by Darryl Chinn Architects, will have 15 town-house and work/live rental units along with a ground-floor cafe in one building, and eight detached for-sale homes, ranging from 900 to 1,200 square feet.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Do my eyes deceive me?

Is that a new restaurant that is not american food or sushi I see in the horizon?

Looks like the neighborhood is getting an Indian place at 14th and O in the old Virga's location. As you have read, a few of us Sacramento bloggers have commented on the barrage of sushi and american places that have popped up downtown and the desire to have more new ethnic places.

The only slight downside is it is a chain . A couple people I know that have been to the one in the Bay Area say it's really good, but a little $$$$

Here are some shots of the inside:

The other place I wanted to comment on is Il Posto on 9th Street between J and K where Kamon Cafe used to be.
The website says they are only open Monday - Friday for dinner, but I know they are also open Saturdays as well.

I had a chance to talk with the owner Leonardo yesterday as I was snapping pictures downtown. As I was taking a look inside the restaurant, he saw me and came to the door to greet me. I must say, he was one hell of a cool guy. Plus, much to my appreciation, he loves walkable urban enviroments and is looking forward to and really feels downtown is going to be a great place a few years down the road. Needless to say, he is anxiously waiting the completion of Plaza Lofts.

Leonardo allowed me to take some pictures of the space to post on this blog. This place is def much more homey that some of the other places that are opening up that are sometimes more about being scene than the food. This place, while def very nice inside, gives you the feeling it is 100% about the food. PLUS, I know some people out there will really appreciate this, there are no TV’s in the place. You are going there to eat and socialize with your dinning mates, not watch the King game.

I will definitely be dinning here in the next week or so. I encourage anyone who is looking for true authentic Italian food to give it a shot as well.

Governors Room.

Construction Photos Galore!

Completed Fremont Mews at 15th and P

Future Site of the Capital Unity Center: 16th and N

The council has secured 2M is funding from the city just recently to finalize this project. From what I understand they will be adding a 4th floor to the building. This is a very good project for Sacramento. Sorry, I do not have anything that shows what the new building will look like.
The Capital Unity Council strives to create an inclusive environment of understanding, acceptance, respect, and celebration of differentness with programs that provide opportunities for learning, partnerships, coalition building, access to services and information, promotion of sound public policy and assembly at our flagship Unity Center.

Please take a few minutes to cruise their website.

Firestone Building: 16th and L

18th and L

St Anton Building: 21st and L

Completed O1 Lofts: 16th and K

Marriott Residence Inn: 15th and L

I am so envious of the views of Capitol Park the owners of the condos on the top 3 floors will have. (sorry, bad pic)

Sears Building: 12th and K

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 11th and K

There was a Quinceanera being held at the church that afternoon. Very cool thing to watch as they exited the church to the music of a mexican band

Plaza Lofts at 8th/9th and J Street

TheTowers on Capitol Mall

621 Capitol Mall

Pictures taken by Innov8 from SSP

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Yes!!! An entire block of Paragary Restaurants!!!!!

Steakhouses and Sushi Galore!!! Are you kidding me?!?!

The city needs to think on a bigger scale for that site. What in essance is a simple re-tenant is not good enough. I will wait for more details on the project, but from this article, I'm not impressed with the idea of the K Street Central team. While I do not think that site must have high-rise housing or office, the scale of the retail and entertainment must be greater.

My feeling is that the K Street Central team is seeing the recent boom in restaurant activity and is just following the trend. Remembers developers are sheep, when something is working elsewhere, they will try and do it everywhere.

The city has 100M is fresh money to spend, if nothing else is done with that money, K Street MUST be fixed this time around. It has been way to long in the making. Spreading that money too thin is not going to have the impact we need. There is no better place to start than K Street Mall. Spending the necessary money on 700/800 and 10th and K Street will solve many of problems downtown has.

Live Theatre, Comedy Clubs, Jazz Clubs among others would do nice on that site.

New ideas for K Street revival
A restaurant-row concept scales back expensive plan for entertainment, housing

The old Woolworth Co. building on the corner of 10th and K streets is viewed as a key location to jump-start downtown revitalization, but for years it has sat empty, a reminder of Sacramento's continued struggle to turn around its central core.

A once-promising concept presented last year for an entertainment district with high-rise housing has faded because of its big price tag, and exploratory research into transforming the Woolworth building into a live theater was determined to be almost prohibitively expensive.

"We're back to square one," said City Councilman Steve Cohn at a recent council meeting.

Now city leaders and David Taylor, the developer heading a team chosen to renovate the city-owned Woolworth building, are regrouping. Taylor said his newest plan is downshifting from the high-priced entertainment and housing idea and moving toward a restaurant-row concept.

"It's the quickest way to turn the block around," said Taylor. "We'd basically be re-tenanting the buildings." (Yes, I want a fast solution too, but let's try and think a little longer term)

The new approach doesn't convince some community members, who say they believe higher expectations should be set for one of the city's most important catalyst sites.

Roxanne Miller, a community activist who works on K Street, said Sacramento needs a unique, mixed-use project at that pivotal location.

"We shouldn't be settling for a restaurant row," Miller said. "That would miss the opportunity for a unique destination that will draw people downtown." (while this lady generally bugs the shit out of me, she nails it on the head)

At a council meeting earlier this month, Miller urged the council to follow goals outlined in a community workshop focusing on the J, K and L streets corridor: "mixed use, not just live theater, but housing, housing, housing, as well as retail."

Wendy Saunders, the city's economic development director, concedes that the phrase "restaurant row" might not sound like an exciting option for K Street. Still, she said the idea has interesting possibilities.

"If people think in terms of a jazz club with a certain caliber of shows, or dinner theater, or something like the House of Blues, I think the idea will resonate much better," Saunders said.

Mayor Heather Fargo, who has pushed a vision of an entertainment destination area, agrees.

"What I've been trying to do on K Street is promote the unique," Fargo said. "It may not be enough to just have good restaurants and good food."

Taylor is mindful of the council's interest in entertainment options and is beginning to work out new ideas for the project. But he said he became interested in the restaurant-row concept while recently walking in San Diego's successful Gaslamp district.

"It's all about what's at ground level - it matters very little what's above it," Taylor said. "The key for me and partnership is not necessarily housing, offices or hotels in the air, but how to get people walking the street daily."

City and business leaders agree that a revitalized K Street Mall is the key to a thriving downtown. Over the years, plans for 10th and K have been touted, then discarded.

Plans in 2004 to bring an art movie house to the Woolworth building were scuttled when community groups protested the project would put the venerable Tower Theatre out of business.

Last year, the City Council requested a proposal for redeveloping the Woolworth building. Taylor's was the only response.

His development team envisioned transforming all four corners of the intersection with an array of uses, including a television studio open to pedestrian viewing, a trendy bowling alley/lounge, a boutique hotel, housing, a movie theater, restaurants, apartments and condominiums.

The cost included a hefty city subsidy of $30 million, Fargo said. She remembers telling a council subcommittee studying the plans, "If we're going to spend $30 million, I'd rather have a performing arts facility." (so we get neither now right?)

After discussions with City Council members about the plan, Taylor said he determined there wasn't much excitement about a ground-floor television studio, so little movement was made with that project.

Bruno Cohen, president of Channel 13 (KOVR) and UPN-31 (KMAX) said he is talking with the city about moving a studio to 11th and K streets. It remains possible for the stations' offices to be in the building's upper floors, he said. (Maybe the Ransohoff Building? I always thought this was a cool idea, but not appropriate for 10th and K. I hope they can make something happen)

Under City Council direction, the city's economic development team and a consultant studied live theater options. Cost of a combination 400-and 200-seat theater was estimated at $40 million, with the small theater alone costing $10 million.

Saunders' economic development staff recommended that if the council wanted to proceed with a theater option, it should look toward the smaller theater. Even then, their endorsement was lukewarm, given that the small theater would bring in only 28,000 people a year - a relatively small amount of foot traffic - Saunders said.

Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, said the small-theater option is the most financially realistic, but his organization isn't certain it should be pursued.

"Ten million is a lot of money for the amount of revenue generated, and only 28,000 people a year," Ault said. "A downtown should have its mix of cultural arts, but what we need at this location is the biggest bang for our buck."

Taylor said he's convinced that for downtown to succeed, the city must direct the full force of a new $100 million redevelopment bond to K Street and acquiring property from several landowners.

"The money needs to be spent, not in a bunch of little projects, but in a focused way to rid the area of as much blight as possible," Taylor said. "We've got to figure out a way to get key parcels. If we can't do that, K Street is not going to get done."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Retail tennats for 18th and L Project. L Street Lofts Ready to go

While no project in Sacramento would be complete without the obligatory steakhouse, I'm really glad to see the other mix of retail. A Wine Shop, Flower Shop, and "European-style" convenience store. I can see this mix of retailers creating a active street scene versus the lunch and dinner type crowds now.

I hope the Firestone Building and the East End Gateway follow suit with a good mix of neighborhood retail. While this project is 10 blocks away, I still consider it part of my neighborhood since it's only a 10-12 minute walk.

On my wish list:
- European-Style Cheese Shop, ala Murray's Cheese in Greenwich Village (Come on man! Do it!!! This person knows who I'm talking about :-) )
- Neighborhood bakery, ala Freeport Bakery
- Takeout cafe with outside seating, ala Sellands
- Neighborhood no- frills Italian Pizza place (come on Luigi's open a place DT!!!!)

I'm suprised how fast Kolokotronis has been able to get L Street Lofts to the point of ready to ground break. I guess times have changed in Sacramento where projects are not taking 5 years to implement anymore.

One down, one to go. Work starts on midtown complex once another is done
Bob Shallit -- Bee ColumnistPublished 2:15 am PST Wednesday, February 15, 2006

With one midtown housing complex nearly done, developer Sotiris Kolokotronis is about to begin work on another. Right across the street.Almost finished is the block-long, 176-unit apartment project at 1801 L St. - a five-story building with a nice mix of ground-floor retailers. It should be ready for occupancy in June, with monthly rents ranging from $900 to $3,500.

Site preparation starts next month on a 92-unit condo and retail project at 1818 L St. Kolokotronis expects to have cranes on site in August and the project, called L Street Lofts, completed in June 2007, with some penthouse units in the neighborhood of an eye-popping $1 million.

The eight-story building is being designed by Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects of Portland, Ore. Financing is coming from the developer, CalPERS and Comerica Bank.

As for the building at 1801 - a project delayed for months due to cost overruns - Kolokotronis has yet to sign retailers. But among the likely tenants are a wine bar, a flower shop and two "firsts" for Sacramento: the renowned Winters-based Buckhorn steakhouse and a "European-style" convenience store with international newspapers, fine chocolates and cigars.

Of the latter concept, Kolokotronis says: "It's what you'd find on corners in San Francisco, New York and all over the world."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cal Western Life building into a boutique hotel?

This is a really cool idea. For those that do not know this building it's the rustic colored building on the south west corner of 10th and J. It's Sacramento oldest or 2nd oldest high-rise (other one would be the Elks). Sacramento-based Rubicon Partners bought the building about a year or so ago and was planning on turning it into condo offices (for-sale office units)

I like this idea MUUUUUUUUCH better. Sacramento really needs a hotel in a historic building. Former hotels like The Senator Hotel and Travelers Building have amazing lobbies, but sadly were turned into office space. I hope one day they can be turned back into a hotel or housing.

Most major cities in the US have hotels like these, sadly Sacramento does not. I stayed at the Benson in Portland last year, which was a boutique hotel in one of there historic buildings. Great, great place. Absolutely beautiful. We need something like that here.

I'm always for turning office space into housing and hotels that puts people on the street after 5. Even better is that they can move ASAP and be open next year

The project would require about 15M is subsidy. Sounds like support is definitely there for the project, but the money always make people take a step back and think.

I say go for it...

Bob Shallit: Plans for boutique hotel downtown pique interest
By Bob Shallit -- Bee ColumnistPublished 2:15 am PST Wednesday, February 8, 2006

A San Francisco operator of deluxe boutique hotels is proposing converting a historic downtown office tower into a destination inn with 200 rooms, meeting space and fine dining.

The proposal from Joie de Vivre Hospitality has just surfaced and will be considered - on an expedited basis - at next Tuesday's Sacramento City Council meeting. If there's support - and a willingness to provide a substantial subsidy - conversion of the classically styled 14-story Cal Western Life A San Francisco company has plans to turn the Cal Western Life building at 926 J St. into a hotel.

"They've brought the concept to us and need feedback quickly on whether to pursue this option," said city senior project manager Traci Michel, referring to the building's owner, Sacramento-based Rubicon Partners.

Without city support, the owners probably will pursue plans to put office condos in the 82-old building, she says.

Initial reactions from city officials were positive Tuesday. The project could become what the Hotel Del Coronado is for San Diego or The Benson for Portland - a destination hotel that brings people to the city, generating occupancy taxes and customers for downtown shops and restaurants.

"You couldn't pick a better location for a boutique hotel," said Councilman Ray Tretheway, whose district includes downtown.Mayor Heather Fargo said she's long wanted the "charm" of a boutique hotel in Sacramento. "To take one of our most treasured historic buildings and (allow) people to go in the lobby and see the marble and a piece of history, that's intriguing to me," she said.

But should the city spend as much as $15 million in public funds to make that happen? "The money part is a little intimidating," Fargo said.

The proposed project is not on a blighted corner. Funding it would mean not funding something else. Still, the mayor said, it would establish the kind of venue Sacramento doesn't yet have "and it's something this city should have."

Rubicon acquired the building last year and looked at several use options. Then the offer came in from Joie de Vivre.

Rubicon principal Kipp Blewett declined to discuss the specifics of the proposal. But he confirmed Rubicon has received a proposal "and we are considering it."

Joie de Vivre was founded in the late 1980s by Chip Conley and now operates 28 hotels, all but one in Northern California. The exception is the newly opened Hotel Angelino in Brentwood. Its newest San Francisco property is the Hotel Vitali, a 200-room hotel near the Embarcadero. Building at 926 J could begin immediately and be open for business by the end of next year.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Speaking of K Street Developments. Live Theater on 10th and K?

Staff report is out for the 10th and K live theater analysis. It goes before the city council on Feb 7th.

It's a big file. But a very good report from LMN Architects

Page: 26
"Sacramento's live theater scene is somewhat underdeveloped compared to comparable markets"

Duh!!!! All kidding aside, it's a good read.

Four options were explored:
Option 1: 400 Seat Theater
Option 2: 400 Seat Theater, with 100 Seat Studio Theater
Option 3: 200 Seat Studio Theater
Option 4: 1000 Seat Theater

Page 35 has some very good looks at what the layouts could be.

It's hard to tell what the city is recommending, but I think options 1 or 2 are the best options.

Option 4 is too big in a couple ways.
1) The reports says there is not enough demand from the users for a new space that big. The Music Circus, Community Theater, Memorial, and even The Crest must be enough large spaces for now.
2) If a theater that large is developed, it leaves very little room for anything else. No housing, and very little retail on a very important corner.

Option 3 is just too small.
Come on now, let's try and think a little bigger than a small 200 seat studio theater. If there is a demand for one that size, choose Option 2 so we get both.

I'm torn on options 1 and 2 though. Choosing Option 1 would leave a larger footprint for housing and retail development. Option 2 would give Downtown 2 new theaters, but a smaller retail/housing footprint and a larger operating deficit each year.

Next Tuesday should be an interesting meeting. Whatever happens, I would like to see a venue somewhere on K Street.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Towers and 621 Capitol Mall (Lot A) Starting to Go Vertical

The start of Sacramento's new skyline

Video of the Pile Driving:

The Towers on Capitol Mall
Photo Taken By Growinup on

Photo taken by Innov8 on

621 Capitol Mall (Lot A)
Photo Taken By Growinup on

Photo taken by Innov8 on

A new look for Capitol Grand Tower?

55 Stories
250 Room Hotel Hilton Garden Inn
395 Condos
100K Office Space

If this building is going to be 50+ stories, those units are going to have to be luxury in order to off set the much higher cost of building that tall.

There are a couple items that do lend some credibility to this. The 100K would be pretty easy to rent in a rebounding office market and given the location. The Hilton Garden Inn has been rumored from the beginning, so there must be some validity to that

Now the bad part. If indeed these are going to be luxury, which is really weird considering a Garden Inn is at the lower end of the hotel spectrum, I think they are too late into the game. There are too many luxury units out there as is for this short of a time period. The Towers and Aura I think are going to eat up most of the demand for the time being.

Second, the only peoples names I have heard on this project are Mo Mohanna and John Lambeth. I doubt they have the $$$ to pull this off without a major backer and developer. Are they working with someone? Maybe, I really have no idea. Until I heard they have another partner though, I can't put much into this

Absolutely beautiful building, but have a very hard time thinking we are going to see it in our skyline.

All these developers are jumping at the chance to bring in the wealthy buyers, and the first few will succeed. My question is, there is also money to be made at the more moderate home buyer level...who are going to be the first few to scale back their projects and jump in and grab the market a couple steps below luxury? Looks like DR Horton is taking a leap in that direction, but I think there is much more to be had

K Street Proposals Move Forward

It's with a tear in my eye (okay, not really) that I see 815L Street on the list of possible properties to be bought. Ah, the memories.

My only concern with the article is the worry about the cost of this. The city has 100M in redevelopment funds to use. I understand that we want to get as much as we can out of that money, but let's make damn sure it gets done this time and we don't nickel and dime the project into submission. This has been waaaaaay too long in the making.

As I wrote a short time ago, K Street should be #1 on the list of things for that 100M. Given how long K Street has suffered, 20M is a drop in the bucket. The city talkes about catalyst projects, this is the mother of all of them.

Click link for a picture of the properties to be bought. (I would post it, but I don't want the big bad Sac Bee people to get mad at me again)

Council reserves $20 million for K Street revival
Eight parcels will be purchased to create housing, retail space in revitalization bid

In an effort to revitalize struggling K Street, the Sacramento City Council has set aside $20 million to purchase eight parcels in the city's central core.

Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to use redevelopment funds to acquire six parcels in the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street and two others in the vicinity on L Street. Development plans call for new retail space and housing to move forward on those streets.

"This is something we need to do; it's been a long time coming," said Councilman Ray Tretheway, whose district includes downtown. "Let's get it started."
Even though Tretheway was glad to see progress, he said he was concerned about the hefty $20 million price tag.

Leslie Fritzche, the downtown division manager of the city's Economic Development Department, said separate parties owned all eight parcels and each negotiation would be private.
"We are mindful that we need to keep negotiations to the lowest dollar amount possible," Fritzche said.

City officials have said one of the biggest obstacles to pushing forward on K Street is cobbling together blocks of land from several owners to make a revitalization project possible.
It is not anticipated that existing businesses will be included in the new projects, so those redevelopment funds also will go toward relocating those merchants.

The move toward acquiring the downtown land emphasizes the city's commitment to turning around downtown.

A year ago, the city adopted a get-tough approach and gave property owners in the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street a short period in which to offer development proposals. The implicit message was if progress wasn't made, the city would, as a last-resort measure, begin efforts to take the land through eminent domain.

Two proposals emerged. Area property owners Moe Mohanna and John Lambath backed one plan. The other came from Zeiden Properties, headed by Joe Zeiden, president of the Gardena-based Z Gallerie home furnishings chain.

Mohanna warned that if the city went with the Zeiden plan, he would aggressively fight attempts by the city to buy the land. The City Council decided to go forward with both developers.

The teams did not want to merge and participate in a joint venture, so the city determined Zeiden would develop the 700 block, and Mohanna/Lambath the 800 block.
The city's land purchase quest will extend beyond K Street to include portions of L Street. A consultant concluded that neither block individually contained enough real estate to make the project profitable for developers, so additional nearby property would need to be purchased or swapped.

Zeiden's proposal would focus heavily on well-known retailers on the ground floor and a modest amount of housing on the upper levels. Besides his own Z Gallerie store, Zeiden has said he can attract such shops as Borders, Sur la Table and Urban Outfitters.

The Zeiden plan emphasizes preserving the streets' historical feel by keeping buildings to two and three stories.

Details of the Mohanna/Lambath plan for the 800 block of K Street are less clear. The team lost developer Evergreen Co. and residential builder Hank Fisher and brought on developer John Saca. Because the partnership changed, it hasn't undergone the same level of financial scrutiny that the city gave Zeiden.

Over the next months, the teams will fine-tune project specifics and produce better cost estimates, Fritzche said. The city also will do a financial analysis of the Mohanna/Lambath/Saca team.