Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rundown of the Downtown Restaurant Scene

There has been a lot of talk regarding the for coming of potential chain restaurants into our downtown and midtown. When it comes to chains, I for one, personal prefer to eat at local independent restaurants. Shopping though, give me the big national chains. Send the Saks, BR and Macy's my way. Boutiques are just too $$$ for the same thing. I'm weird that way, but I think a lot of people are the same.

Sacramento in general has ever chain imaginable. Downtown has yet to be really penetrated by it, but that will soon change with eminent opening of some.

In one sense, the fact that these corporations want to open downtown is a sign that the general downtown economy is getting better, but I still do not want to see them on every corner.

So what I decide to do is get a rundown of everything (at least that I can think of) that has opened over the last few years in downtown and midtown to really see if we are being invaded by the chains as a lot of people are suggesting.

The fist thing to do is define a chain. Different people view a chain differently. I think we can all agree that places like PF Changs, Morton's, and Starbucks are chains. Where you run into a difference of opinion is the small local chains that are non "corporate" with 100 places across the US, like a Mikuni's, that have 3 or 4 locations. I don't lump Mikuni's in the chain bucket since it is something unique to Sacramento.

Pyramid Brewery has 5 locations, Sacramento, Seattle, Berkeley. Portland and Walnut Creek, the same as Mikuni's, but they are def a chain.

One Saturday morning when Cafe Flood was shocking closed at 8:30, I really didn't want to go to Starbucks, so I decided to go to Naked Lounge. There was another person there as well and he commented how he didn't want to go to Naked since it was a chain! It took me a second to realize he meant that they have one in Chico as well, but come on now! I'm sorry, Naked is not a chain.

What about 58 Degrees opening where Slater and Marinof used to be at 18th and Cap? One other location in AZ? Chain or Non-Chain?

What about Crepeville? Has a small independent feel, but there are 4 or 5 other locations.

What about the Paragary Group?

So as you can see, there is room for disagreement here.

I hope we never see it happen, and it's never too early to make sure it doesn't happen. I know there will be people that will shit a brick at the sight of even one chain restaurant, but I think for right now I don't think it's quite as bad as it may appear.

I do think we are seeing an awful lot of upscale places open and I would like to see a few more casual and "hole in the wall" type places.

Outside of downtown and midtown, yes, Chains-R-Us, but in DT and MT, while there does seem to be some chains that will pop up in the future, the non-chains seem to be outpacing them by quite a margin.

I tend to eat primarily at non-chains, so if I missed one, point it out

Current Resturants
Non-Chain: (31)
Mason's, Ma Jongs, Lucca, 55 Degrees, Chops, Mulvaney’s Building and Loan, Il Posto, Icon, Kru, Tamaya, Hangar 17, Kasbah, Osteria, Joey B's, Plum Blossom, Zukko, Brew It Up, Sofia, Spataro, Zocolo, Dragonfly, Tortugas, Bistro 33, Mikuni's, Capitol Garage, Harry's Cafe, Sandra Dee's, Butch and Nellies, Black Pearl, Sky Bar, Zen Toro

EDIT: Espresso Bar: 12th and K
My friends who owns the Espresso Bar nearly killed me for leaving them off this list!!!

Sorry Guys!!!!!!

Chain: (10)
Crepeville, Gaylords, Pyramid Brewery, Wolfgang Puck Express, Melting Pot, 58 Degrees, PF Changs , Chipotle, Beach Hut Deli, Starbucks (I don't know exactly where, but I'm sure one has)

From what we can see, the non-chains clearly have it in this part. Plus, there are only a couple of the true 100 restuarants corporate on the list

-Ella's: 12th and K
-Pronto: 16th and O
-Stone Grille: 21st and L
-Cafe by owners of Cornerstone: 21st and L
-Captiol Grille: 15th and L
-Independant Wine Bar: 18th and L
-Grand Wines: 16th and L
-Independant Convenience Store : 18th and L
-Rick's Dessert: 9th and J, 800 J Lofts (Rumor)
-Independant Mexican Restuarant: 9th and J, 800 J Lofts (Rumor)
-Sukra Sushi and Teppanyaki:9th and J, US Bank Building (not sure about this one though)

- Buckhorn's: 18th and L (done deal)
- Roy's: 16th and L (rumor)
- CPK: 16th and L (rumor)
- Samurai Sam's: 14th and O (done deal)
- McCormick & Schmick: 11th and J (done deal)
- Firewood Cafe: 700 Block K Street (rumor)

We def see a higher concentration on this list, but with so many projects out there that have not signed retail yet, the list could tilt toward the non-chains, or further toward the chains. Time will tell.

Monday, May 22, 2006

More News On The Crystal Ice Building

We might see the Crystal Ice getting going sooner than later.

Looks like there might be a lot of housing to go with it along with over 100K in retail. I got my money on Freidman talking to Trader Joe about a move in here, which will piss Safeway off. It looks like the leasing agents for the project, Retail West, are brokers for Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's tend be much smaller in size, so it be a much better fit in that location. What about Dean and Delucca?

From the bio's of the team members, they seem to specialize in mixed use development.

Couple this with the R Street Plaza and that's going to be awesome stretch for evening markets , dinning and festivals.

10th and K Project Gaining Momentum

We have been hearing a lot about the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street for some time now, but we rarely hear about the equally important 10th and K project. That corner is really important in connecting the east side of K Street with the future west side

From the beginning this one has gone all over the place. Ideas from live tv studios and bowling alleys, a 1000 seat live theater to a "restaurant row" idea have all been tossed out.

While I still would have liked a "real" live theater at that site, the cabaret could be pretty interesting. Best of all, it would be operated by the Music Circus. My worry at first was that it would be operated by some 'national chain of cabaret' type place.

The MC should be able to do something unique to Sacramento instead of a cookie cutter version from another city. Even a few Asia SF type performances would be cool. (I know, I just contradicted myself there) I'd also love to see a Comedy Club get thrown somewhere on K Street as well.

The part that I'm not big on is another Paragary Group Restaurant. For a long time it seemed like Paragary was the only person willing to take a chance on downtown, and I am grateful for that. There comes a point though where too much is too much. I really don't want to see a Paragary on every other block. 10th and K, 13th and K, 14th and L and maybe even 15th and L is he opens the old Capitol Grill in the Marriot project as has been rumored.

I'm also glad to see some housing in the mix by the CIM group. CIM has it's own financing division so if they do decide to through with the project, financing is not a problem.

All in all, this one seems like it might have the best chance of getting built.
Vibrant plan for K Street takes shape
Cabaret, restaurants would anchor long-dormant area
Sacramento Business Journal - May 19, 2006 by Mike McCarthy - Staff Writer

A cabaret and restaurant could anchor an entertainment and dining center at 10th and K streets, serving as a much-needed link between proposed high-rise towers and the IMAX Theater in downtown Sacramento.

The cabaret-restaurant may open in the long-vacant Woolworth building, while the popular Jack's Urban Eats could expand with another restaurant across the street.

Redevelopment of the area, called K Street Central, is a major priority for city officials who want to redevelop K Street -- a pedestrian-only corridor -- and attract more businesses. Three of the four buildings, including the former five-and-dime Woolworth store, are vacant.

The often-overlooked intersection is halfway between the IMAX Theater and developers John Saca and Joe Zeiden's 600-condo and retail project in the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street.

Planning for K Street Central has been under way for more than a year. But some plans to revive the intersection, including live theater in the building, were dropped because they were not considered feasible.

But the lead developer for the project, David Taylor, told city officials he wants to put a combination cabaret and restaurant on the ground floor of the Woolworth building, said Leslie Fritzsche, downtown development manager with the Economic Development Department.

The cabaret would be operated by the same group that runs the Music Circus. Local restaurateur Randy Paragary may operate the "California cuisine" restaurant, said Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, a coalition of landlords. Ault said he saw the plans at the same time as Fritzsche.

The top floor of the building would become a partly covered patio for diners. The second floor would include a banquet facility. Across the street at 1001 K St., the Cordano family and builder Steve Eggert are negotiating with Jack's Urban Eats, which could open on the second floor of the mostly vacant building, Fritzsche said.

The Cordanos also control the southwest building in the intersection, at 930 K St., and are looking at several options for that vacant structure, including mixed-use development. James Cordano III would not comment.

The city would like to include the fourth corner, which now houses a delicatessen. But there are no plans for the building at this time, said John Dangberg, the deputy city manager overseeing economic development.

Another developer, CIM Group Inc., controls 1012 and 1022 K St., where it plans a 14-story building with about 130 condominiums, Fritzsche said. City staff will work with the developers to refine Taylor's concept, then take it to the city council for consideration in about six weeks. Still undecided is whether city subsidies will be needed for the project.

For earlier concepts, the group had reportedly estimated it would need $30 million in subsidies.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

16th Street Renaissance

This article is very exciting to me, even though it's nothing I didn't know, or anything that hasn't been touched on this site. My wife and I choose to live where we do because we saw a couple years ago what 16th Street could become and now we are literally seeing the dirt flying.

In addition to the projects you see in the graphic, there are a couple more that are not mentioned that will continue to connect the dots and close the gaps.

- Grand Wines on 16th and L. The owners of Aoili are putting this place together.

-East End Gateway I and IV
16th and N: 8-10 stories, 130 Units and Ground Floor Retail
16th and P: 4 Stories, 34 Units and Ground Floor Retail.

The crown jewel is going to be whomever can get their hands on the 16th and J surface parking lot across the street from the East End Lofts. That parcel should be able to hold a good amount of units and retail space. On CADA's future projects list is the SE corner of 16th and N where the Enterprise Rental currently is located. No real timeline for it though

The Firestone project from what I have heard will be a Roy's or a Flemings Steakhouse (Yippy! More Steak!). I saw on another blog that CPK might be one of the tenants as well. I still think they missed the boat by not building some housing with amazing views of the park though

I really hope we see more local product and not as many chains in the future projects. I would kill for a local bakery like Freeport Bakery, a speciately store like Corti Brothers or Italian Importing, and an authentic no frils Italian mom and pop pizza place.

I will also come to the defense of Loftworks on the subsidies. Their new building, O1 Lofts at 16th and K, was built with zero public money. When possible, they build without public money


New night lights
More restaurants, shops and housing are bringing once-barren 16th Street corridor alive again
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -- Bee Staff Writer

At 8:30 p.m. on a recent Thursday, customers packed the bar at Bistro 33 Midtown, the latest restaurant to open near the corner of 16th and J streets.

Wearing his white chef's shirt and apron, co-owner Fred Haines surveyed the scene. "We seat until 3 in the morning tonight," he said. "The crowd later will be really big."

Haines said he and his brother Matt chose to open their new eatery on 16th, between J and K streets, because it's a hub of night life in an increasingly vibrant downtown.

By deciding to serve food until midnight most days and 3 a.m. on weekends, they're also banking on the idea that plenty of people want to eat and drink downtown well past the hour when most places shut down.

"It's a bold move; I love it," said customer Troy Bird, 41, of Clarksburg. He said downtown Sacramento needs more post-show dining options for patrons of the Music Circus and other nearby performing arts venues.

Just a few years ago, this intersection hardly would have qualified as an urban hot spot. Its dominant features were an auto repair shop, parking lots and car rental businesses -- remnants of the street's pre-interstate role as Highway 160. Commute traffic was heavy, and pedestrians were scarce.

But in the past five years, aided by the infusion of millions of dollars in public subsidies -- in the form of loans, grants and land -- 16th and neighboring 15th streets are coming alive. Sixteenth Street, in particular, has been targeted by local redevelopment leaders as a future corridor of restaurants and shops with housing above.

"I think 16th Street could actually be hip; it's got that vibe going," said John Packowski, a local architect and frequent downtown diner.

One of the main drivers of this transformation has been an entity called Loftworks, an affiliation of developers that includes Mark Friedman, Michael Heller, Glenn Sorensen and Randy Boehm.
They work from airy offices filled with modern art atop Mikuni's Japanese Restaurant and P.F. Chang's China Bistro, in the historic auto dealership at 16th and J streets that they converted to the East End Lofts.

Loftworks recently opened its second residential project at 16th and J, called 01 Lofts.
It is here that the Haines brothers, who own the 33rd Street Bistro and the Riverside Club, opened Bistro 33 Midtown in April. Another tenant is Design Within Reach, one of the nation's best known sellers of modern furniture.

Loftworks has staked out another major presence on 16th Street. The group recently broke ground on a five-story project at 16th and O streets, across from the Fremont Building.

Four architects from three firms in Portland and Sacramento are designing pieces of the project, which will occupy both the southwest and northwest corners of O Street. It will include street-level stores and restaurants, 32 apartments, 21 condominiums and eight for-sale, three-story town homes.

This bloom of city life on the once barren border between downtown and midtown hasn't happened without some fertilizer. Two public agencies -- the Capitol Area Development Authority and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency -- have spent millions to help developers who said their projects couldn't turn a profit on their own.

Loftworks has been a major recipient. For its East End Lofts, the partnership received $3million in funds from SHRA. CADA is kicking in $5.2million for Loftworks' latest project at 16th and O, much of it in the form of free land and money for a parking garage.

CADA executive director Paul Schmidt said the city-state agency, which manages state-owned land around the capitol, had expected to wean developers off subsidies by now. But soaring construction costs have made that difficult.

The price of developing in the central city remains high. Sites are often contaminated with toxics, and the sewer and water systems need upgrading.

Loftworks' Friedman said he and his partners would do their projects without public help if they could. Developers generally look for a return on their investment of 10 to 12percent, he said. At 16th and O streets, his group expects to get less than 9percent.

"All these numbers are audited by public officials," he said. "It's a very challenging project."
Officials at the city of Sacramento and CADA have been criticized for using redevelopment funds to subsidize such high-end condominium and apartment projects at a time when downtown rents are rising beyond the reach of many.

Rents in the new Loftworks project will be in the $1,300 to $1,500 range, Friedman said.
Ethan Evans, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, acknowledged that the city is legally entitled to spend money on such projects, as long it also sets designates money for affordable housing. But he still objects.

"What's needed most is housing for working people, and we continue to put large amounts of subsidies into housing that doesn't have units available for families making $50,000 or less," Evans said.

Art Luna, owner of Luna's Cafe, a longtime fixture on 16th Street, also has mixed feelings about public money going into projects that include new restaurants competing with him for business.
"To me it seems a little unfair," he said. "We have a niche so we're fine, but it just seems kind of nuts."

Still, he welcomes the improved lighting, the influx of pedestrians and the other byproducts of increased investment. Attendance is up at evening concerts in the cafe.

"When we first opened here, 16th Street was not quite blighted, but it was a tough neighborhood," Luna said. "There were prostitutes. ... At night it was very dark. If we were doing music, we were the only thing happening. It could be a bit scary."

Today, he said, "I feel much safer because there's a lot more activity, a lot more people around."
If recent property sales are any indication, more change is on the way. Developers have been snapping up dated and shuttered buildings along 16th Street with the idea of turning them into something more exciting.

One of the street's worst eyesores, the hulking green complex of buildings that once housed the Crystal Ice Plant, sold last year to Friedman, who plans to turn it into "an amazing mixed-use project that will transform that sector of downtown." He wouldn't reveal any details.

Another Loftworks partner, Sorensen, recently bought the building occupied by Young's Fireside Shop, which sells fireplaces and related equipment. He said he's not sure yet what he plans to do with the property.

Other developers have gotten into the act. Ken Fahn and Mark A. Cordano recently were picked by owners of the old Firestone tire store at 16th and L streets to rehab the art deco building into a retail and restaurant complex.

Fahn also developed the Park Downtown restaurant and bar complex a block away on 15th and L streets -- a project widely regarded as having raised the bar for style downtown.

Back at 16th and J, the nucleus for the 16th Street revival, Fred Haines is planning to tap into another potential customer base: breakfast eaters. When Bistro 33 starts serving breakfast later this month, it will be open 19 hours a day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Not quite the 24-
hour downtown city leaders have long been striving for, but close.

"We're trying for the all day and night crowds," Haines said.