Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Railyards Close Escrow

The holidays, jury duty, and the flu...the last couple weeks have been hectic so I haven't had a chance to post anything in a while.

Hell as frozen over....The Railyards closes escrow

The land is now in the lands of Thomas Enterprises and the important Depot now belongs to the city along with the 8 surrounding acres. The money set aside is 55M for the depot and land but I think some people don't realize it is not a done deal, there is still going to be an apprasial done, negotiations, and mediation as a last resorrt, so the final price will most likey be less than that. It's not going to be cheap to finish the Intermodel, Federal Transportation Funds are going to be key to get this completed.

Another tidbit I think a lot of people don't know about it while some of the railyard still needs cleaning, the portions closest to the station has been cleared for years and is ready to go. I'm 98% sure about that, if I have it wrong someone can clarifiy.

The best part of this all is the site and potential developement is owned by one company. This will allow a complete plan to be done for the entire area, versus the piece meal approach that takes place in downtown right now due to so many property owners.

This is our best chance to create a new walkable urban neighborhood from scratch. With that said, I'm not digging the Bass Pro Store at all. I guess I will hold out until I see how they intergrate the bix box to the area, but having bix boxes in itself isn't the start I was hoping for.

While an arena would be nice to have in the area, I think it's now a pipe dream and needs to just be put in Natomas. Too many problems between the Maloofs, City and Thomas. If the Maloofs want to still be in Sac, they for darn sure don't want to be in the Railyards. Natomas is a cash cow for them and that is where they want to stay.

They say construction could begin late 2007, I have my doubts about that. If they get started in 2008, that will be a good timelime. Even when construction starts we are still looking at a 15+ year build out. While it will be great to watch the progress made, it will be a slow process. Maybe I can retire there.

Railroad deal pulls into station
The developer closes escrow, and the city takes historic depot.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff Writer

After a week of tension and last minute hold-ups, Georgia developer Thomas Enterprises closed escrow Friday on the downtown Sacramento railyard -- birthplace of the transcontinental railroad and centerpiece of the city's history.

At the same time, the city of Sacramento took ownership of the train station on I Street, a key piece of the region's rail transportation system since 1926.

Gathered in front of the historic, red-brick train depot, city officials sipped champagne with representatives of Thomas Enterprises as they announced the transfer of the railyard and celebrated its role in the planned extension of downtown.

"For 150 years this site has nurtured the city of Sacramento; now it's time for it to become part of the city of Sacramento," said Richard Rich, Thomas Enterprises' development director, as he popped open a bottle of champagne.

The head of the company, Stan Thomas, did not attend. He will attend a formal ceremony in January, said vice president Suheil Totah.

Totah would not reveal the price paid to Union Pacific for the railyard, citing a confidentiality agreement with the railroad.

Negotiations with Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific proved difficult and complex until the end. The deal, scheduled to close Thursday, was delayed after a last-minute dispute over who would pay to move an underground pipe.

Plans for the 240-acre property -- now a contaminated Superfund site -- include a new transportation complex, a railroad technology museum and public market inside the historic shop buildings, plus 10,000 housing units, stores, offices and hotels.

A Bass Pro fishing outlet has signed a letter of intent to be the first retail tenant.

"The city of Sacramento is really relieved to have the escrow close," said Mayor Heather Fargo. "Today is kind of like a dream come true."

Totah noted that he and other members of the development team had been working on the deal for four years.

In his address to the media, Totah thanked so many people who had worked on aspects of the effort that his remarks resembled an Oscar acceptance speech.

"Many people did not believe in us. ... But we never gave up. We never let go of our dreams," Totah said.

Crucial to closing the deal was $55 million from the city of Sacramento. That money bought the city immediate control of the depot and eight surrounding acres.

Once a fair price is determined through negotiation and possible arbitration, the city will apply any money left over from the depot purchase to another 24 acres it plans to buy for a transportation complex serving trains, buses and light rail.

In addition to the city money, Thomas received a loan for about $16 million from Union Pacific, according to documents filed with the Sacramento County Recorder.

Deborah Pacyna, a spokeswoman for Thomas Enterprises, said those two sums did not equal the entire purchase price, however.

She stressed that Thomas Enterprises has already spent about $40 million on the railyard deal in planning and legal expenses.

The company also has promised to finish the toxic cleanup begun by Union Pacific, a task expected to take about two years. Totah would not say how much the remaining cleanup is expected to cost.

Decades of uncontrolled dumping of diesel fuel, heavy oil, battery acid and other chemicals into the ground in the once-bustling industrial complex left extensive groundwater and soil contamination. The groundwater is being pumped out and cleaned -- a process that will take many years, but won't affect development.

About two-thirds of the contaminated dirt has been excavated thus far, Totah said. Progress slowed recently as UP negotiated to sell the property.

"We're going to be expediting the cleanup of the site in January, so you're going to be seeing a lot of activity taking place," he said.

Thomas Enterprises has obtained an insurance policy to cover unexpected discoveries of additional pollution.

Transfer of the railyard to a private developer is a historic step in the redevelopment of one of the largest urban "infill" sites in the nation.

The problem of how to get things moving at the dormant yard has vexed politicians for years. The last crews in the rail shops, once the city's largest employer, punched out in 1999.
"I never thought I'd be spending most of my political career on this site," Fargo said of her longtime role as railyard booster.

Over the years, local officials have repeatedly complained about the difficulty of getting Union Pacific to move more to get its Sacramento properties restored and redeveloped.
UP didn't say much about the transfer.

"We've been working on the sale of the property for some time, and it has finally come to a culmination," UP spokesman Mark Davis said upon hearing the deal had closed.
Mike Casey, the UP official in charge of local real estate deals, did not attend the news conference and could not be reached for comment.

Local preservationist Kay Knepprath applauded the change in ownership.

"Enough of having to deal with UP, whose minds and hearts are in ice in Omaha," she said. "We're ready to celebrate."

Knepprath and other activists have long fought for preservation of the 1926 train station and were instrumental in a compromise to move it about 300 feet north and make it the hub of the city's planned transportation complex.

Knepprath said she is excited by Thomas' plans for the railyard.

"This development is really going to take our city up a notch," she said. "We're going to surpass all those good things Portland was able to do. We'll have something even better."

Among its many other components, the plan for the railyard includes a potential site for a new Kings arena within a sports and entertainment zone. But Sacramento County voters in November rejected a proposal to raise sales taxes by a quarter cent to fund its construction.

Fargo said a piece of land is still earmarked for an arena, "if anyone out there can help us figure out a way to pay for it."


wburg said...

This gives me some hope...personally I am glad to see the next step taken, partially because it means we're one step closer to starting work on the Railroad Technology Museum in the existing Shops building.

Jumping back to the urban design workshop on the 11th, it was expressed by a few people there that the railyard area really should have some tall buildings. It seems like an ideal place for them: virgin ground, central location, and best of all (from a preservation standpoint) no old buildings in the way. The existing Shops buildings will end up being owned by the Railroad Museum or integrated into the project: one thing I like from what I have seen of other Thomas projects is that they really like the idea of adaptive reuse of historic structures.

Anonymous said...

" I'm not digging the Bass Pro Store at all"

kind of a shame really , it belongs in West Sac or perhaps Natomas .

Either way Im sure glad to see this thing move on .

Zwahlen Images said...

I like the idea of a Bass Pro Shop... if you have ever been to one you know they offer more than just fishing stuff. If your the out door adventure type, it will surly be right up your alley.

LivingInUrbanSac said...

I think the store would be successful and well patronized by the people in this region, there are a ton of outdoor activities to do in the Sacramento region that this store would provide equipment and supplies for them very nicely.

Where I am not sold on yet (because we haven't seen any plans yet) is how the store is going to be designed and incorporated into the new neighborhood. I have to imagine they are not stupid and won't just build it on 8 acres with a ton of parking like the burbs.

Anonymous said...

hopefully, perhaps, maybe,

contrary to the lack of urban design/architecture in Sacramento,

these guys latched on to Jerde and his boys from Venice Beach which is a big step forward for this area,

Street Scene at Jerde's Del Mar Plaza is something to behold, and after a climb on the swooping street you end up in the plaza overlooking the ocean and having coffee or a drink....

Even the forecourt in awful Roseville Galleria has a sense of urbanity and urban space that is lacking in Sacramento...

maybe, just maybe, some sense of urbanity will come to Sacramento...

but, don't hold your breath, the vulgarians, Fargo/Kerridge...will do their damndest to screw it up...

Anonymous said...

I'm sure a Pro Bass Shop would follow the same design plan as the rest of the Rail Yard. I was able to pick up the guidelines for the rail yards at city hall when the city was forced to release all information about the deal last October; there were no surface parking lots in the plan.

dan said...

upscale urban chic,

now that's Sacramento if I ever heard it...

"You never even called me by my name"



Aqua right here in the Big Tomato...

so that young long legged thing in her 2000 dollar dress (she looks like a young Sylvia Kristel), slithers up to the neighboring bar stool and you say, "Say, are you wearing any pants under that Vera Wang?"

And I seen an elephant fly!

pardon me John Prine, Steve Goodman, David Allen Coe...and I have the next drink?

Zach said...

i think Dan has been drinking the railyards water again...