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.


somebody else said...

I'd also really like to see those parking lots across from Loftworks & PF Changs get built up. That area of 16th Street has so much potential, several midrise buildings down that side of the street would be nice and fit into the surrounding neighborhood nicely.

LivingInUrbanSac said...

All the new development seems to be happening on the west side of 16th Street. The only one in the pipeline for the east end is on 16th and P. It would be nice to see the other side get in on the action.

I have to imagine someone has tried to buy the lot on 16th and J, but I'm sure the owner knows he/she has a hot property on his/her hands.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. If you look at what's happening at 18th and L (Aoli, Crepeville), you'll see what I call "closing out corners". This is when every corner has a substantial building on it. This creates a comfortable, bustling space with lots of options for pedestrians. The author James Howard Kunstler conceptualizes this as like an urban "room" with four walls. 18th and L is gonna be even bigger once the 1801 Lofts open (not to mention the the other L st loft project right behind). Someone will do something with that east side of 16th. Too bad we haven't heard about it yet though.

LivingInUrbanSac said...

I totally understand what you are talking about. I love sitting by a window while I eat and watching life occur on the other side of the street, versus looking at a surface parking lot.

Surface parking lots are a cardinal sin in urban development. Utter waste.

18th and L/Captiol Ave and around 20th and K (Faces, Depot, Headhunters) are the only places you see that right. 16th and O will have it soon though since the Fremont Building is already there.

Brian said...

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Email me at gobluedevil@yahoo.com