Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fins Market Coming to Downtown

This is very welcome news to the downtown and midtown food scene.

Fins Market & Grill is opening a location at 19th and S, across the street from the Safeway. Currently the site is under construction by Petrovich, but the Fins website says they will be open in Winter of this year.

I have never been to Fins, but people I know that have been there say it's outstanding.

We really don't have many (if any) seafood places in the central city, especially ones that has a fresh market as well. From looking at the menu, they are reasonably priced. Nothing over $20, with the exception of lobster

It'll be nice to be able to go somewhere and buy FRESH seafood that is just a few blocks from my house when needed, instead of the previously frozen, farm-raised crap that Safeway tends to sell most of the time.

You can't go wrong with fresh Mahi-Mahi, Ono, Wild King Salmon, Oysters, Prawns, Ahi Tuna (Sushi Grade), and Crab. And it's not a chain!!

Considering it'll open in the Winter, how good will a batch of hot seafood cioppino sound at that time?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

City Redevelopement Subsidy Choices

I think Teri Hardy read my blog and got an idea for this story.

Last week, I wrote about wanting to see what else is out there vying for redevelopment money, well here it is.

Taken from

Dude, that 114M went by FAST. Where did the other 40M go?
- 28M 700 and 800 K Street
- 9.9M 926 J Street
- 475K Imax

That's only 38M.....They say 35M is left over..differance of 40M from the 114M. SOmething is missing. I know the Crocker is getting money, but I can't imagine it's 40M

Unfortunately, K Street is taking A LOT of the money, but that should come as no surprise and is WELL worth it. It needs to stay the #1 choice.

If I had to spend the money, I would have to lean toward anything with housing and K Street. So that puts me at #3, #7, #10, and the remaining amout to whatever 10th and K needs and maybe a little toward Downtown Plaza. I haven't even heard of the 900 J and K Street block project, but I'd have to rank that one pretty high since it's housing and on J and K Street

I have to imagine that The Towers will get it done without the 10M. I don't think K Street "beautification" is needed. If they just get 700, 800 and 1000 redeveloped, that'll do wonders for now.

Mainstream theaters do bring a lot of people, but I still want to see live theater at 10th and K. Maybe there a way to incorporate both into 10th and K? I could do without the Paragary "flagship" restaurant

The UPN studios could be cool and would "only" cost 1M. If it's the building I am think of accross from the old Marilyn's building, I have always thought that building would a great Sacramento MOMA down the road.

The Docks area waterfont park sounds awesome and would LOVE to see it, but I think it's one of those projects that is quite a few years off and can be included in the 2009 funds. Plus, spending all 35M on it probably wouldn't be the best idea.


Tough subsidy choices for city
Requests for help on projects dwarf the $35 million available.
By Terri Hardy -- Bee Staff Writer

From hotels to condos to rehabbing Sacramento's Downtown Plaza, a flood of proposed development projects are pouring into the city.

These major projects also come with requests for city subsidies totaling more than $116 million, and more proposals are expected. The problem: The city's downtown redevelopment fund has only about $35 million remaining.

"We don't have enough money to cover projects on our wish list, at least right now," said Mayor Heather Fargo.

Last week, the owner of the Downtown Plaza unveiled its plans to renovate the mall, but said it will need some $20 million in city help. With that request and others coming, the city will do what it can to help, but some serious analysis is necessary, said Assistant City Manager John Dangberg. "Tough choices will be made," he said.

The shrinking redevelopment pot may mean projects are delayed, pared down, or canceled altogether, Dangberg said. Over the next few months, the city's Economic Development Department will evaluate the proposals, looking at their proposed use and benefits to the city before making recommendations to the City Council.

"What cannot be funded can't be funded," Dangberg said. "Either they'll find other ways to move forward, or they might drop off."

In 2005, the city approved a $114 million bond to fund projects in the 104-block downtown redevelopment area. The bond is to be repaid through anticipated growth in property taxes, or "tax increment" within the redevelopment area.

The council already has approved money for a host of projects, including $28 million to assemble land and allow the development of the struggling 700 and 800 blocks of K Street and nearly $9.9 million to transform a historic office building at 926 J St. into a Joie de Vivre boutique hotel/restaurant.

The city hopes in 2009 it will be able to issue another bond and collect an additional $20 million to $60 million.

Meanwhile, Dangberg and his staff are trying to think creatively about the most cost-effective use of the funds. One idea involves re-evaluating a controversial idea to bring a movie theater complex to the old Woolworth's building at 10th and K streets, Dangberg said.

Developer David Taylor's team has proposed turning that building into a small live theater and restaurant with a $6.7 million city subsidy. That project was expected to bring in 200,000 visitors a year -- a low number in comparison with other uses such as movie theaters.
In the past, however, a proposal to place an art movie house at that location was rejected as too politically sensitive after community members complained it would put the Tower and Crest theaters out of business.

The new idea might hinge on the theaters staying away from art films and focusing instead on first-run movies.

Taylor said Monday he's agreed to a city request to take a quick look at the feasibility of the movie theater project. However, he doesn't want to imperil his current idea, which could be completed in 16 to 18 months.

"For me, the really important thing is to do something positive at that location and bring in an extra 200,000 people who aren't there now," Taylor said.

The deal might make more sense now that Downtown Plaza owner Westfield Corp. Inc., has submitted its $20 million subsidy request to the city. Much of that money was needed, Westfield officials said, because the city wanted them to put its proposed expanded theater complex atop the Hard Rock Cafe at Seventh and K streets and bring more foot traffic to the struggling K Street mall.

If theaters were on 10th and K streets, it's possible that the costly move wouldn't be necessary.

The city's goal is to create such a thriving downtown that subsidies will no longer be necessary. Dangberg said the downtown is already seeing more of that as it flourishes.

Michael Ault, executive director for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, agrees.

"The city used to have to seed everything, now restaurants are doing it on their own, and office buildings no longer get subsidies," Ault said.

Projects on a larger scale, and projects with housing are now likeliest to get help, Ault said.

Last week, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership board voted on a priority list of downtown redevelopment spending. The board agreed that Downtown Plaza was a top-ranking request, because downtown's success hinges on the mall. And though no firm plan has been proposed to move the Greyhound bus station and costs are unknown, the partnership board agreed that, too, must be at the top of the city's list.

Fargo said she knows that city assistance can often make or break a development. She said all the 2005 bond projects approved to this point couldn't have been done without the additional dollars.

Developer Lloyd Harvego said his plans to build ground floor retail and upstairs apartments at the site of the former Orleans Hotel in Old Sacramento won't materialize without city assistance.

The $6 million is crucial, Harvego said, since the return on the rentals will be lower than the downtown market.

"Rental rates are lower, but construction costs are not lower," Harvego said. "Without city tax increment, this project simply wouldn't get done."'

Friday, August 18, 2006

Capitol Mall Construction...

The Towers on Capitol Mall

The below were taken on August 17, 2006

621 Capitol Mall

Westfield and Downtown Plaza

So what do people think of the latest Downtown Plaza proposal? I think there are some good and bad parts of the proposal, but I think it's also a good starting point.

Between this proposal of an additional 140K square feet, 60K on the 700 block of K Street, 23K at 621, 15K at Aura and 60K at The Towers, we should see a nice a jump in retail options in the next few years.

The Good -
-The exterior improvements have always been big in my mind to help transform DTP into something more urban and pedestrian friendly versus the bunker it is now. Now they just need to do the same on the J Street side now.

- The grocery store is much needed. Of the three mentioned, I really hope the local Nugget gets the nod.

-I have always favored having the theaters above Hard Rock at 7th and K. The location is much more strategic being at the foot of K Street Mall, plus I would rather see Westfield build up and leave more room for other retail.

-I like the Target idea. I don't think it is going to be a major draw outside of area, but it would serve the area residents nicely. BUT, they still need to attract a higher end store. Target alone won't cut it.

My ideal combination of anchors stores would be Macy's, Target and a higher end store in the area of a Saks, Neimun Markus, Bloomingdales, or even a Nordstrom. I think that would cover discount shopping, middle income and higher incomes. I would like to see one of the Macy's locations expanded a couple of floors and moved into one location to make room for another anchor. I have to imagine Macys would see the benefit of having all departments all in one location versus on opposites sides of DTP.

The bad -
- I was hoping the Macy's stores would get some exterior improvements on the L Street side to open them up as well.

-The 20M is too much. I don't think it's wise to spend that much money on this project. I would be more comfortable if that amount was in the 10M range. The city needs to make sure it leaves enough money to encourage as much housing as possible. I do expect that number to come down though with some negotiations from the city

Couple of other things as well:
First - We all know there is only a certain amount of redevelopment left and many more projects than money.

While I am not a big advocate of holding the big community meeting on an individual project and slows things down, but in this case I would really like to see the city hold something where we can take a look at everything that is out there for redevelopment money and let the community give their input on what they feel the money would be best spent on.

I don't want something like the JKL that took a couple years to shake down, but just something or one night for people to have an educated idea of what is out there and give input to the city council and planners

Let all the developers come to the communty and pitch their idea.

Who is to say there isn't a 500 unit affordable housing proposal out there that could be built with this 15M? But not if we give the money to Westfield.

Second - This Luree Stetson lady is really starting to piss me off. The reason your theater is venerable is because it is a piece of shit. The experience of watching a film there is terrible. If the company that owns the Tower would put some money into it, it might actually be a place people would want to go.

The Tower is owned by Reading Entertainment, a corporation that hides behind the shadow of the Tower Theater. They bitch and moan about how can the city give money to the big bad corporation Century when they are exactly the same thing.

Why don't they come up with a plan on how to fix the Tower and bring it to the city to see how it can help? They could have had a piece of the 100M community reinvestment dollars that were handed out earlier this year to things like The Crocker, Memorial, Sacramento Zoo and others.

They have been "in the process" for years now. They need to stop bitching and step up to the plate.

Makeover for downtown mall unveiled
By Terri Hardy -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:01 am PDT Thursday, August 17, 2006

The owners of the aging Downtown Plaza have submitted plans to the city for a $100 million renovation and expansion that would include a Target, an upscale grocery store and a controversial theater complex above the Hard Rock Cafe.

The project comes with a steep request -- a city subsidy of as much as $20 million.

We have a development plan that is going to have broad support and position the Downtown Plaza for the future," said Larry Green, senior vice president of development for the mall's owner, Westfield Corp. Inc. "It has a major entertainment component, a new major anchor."City leaders said they are excited that the long-anticipated project finally has been submitted to the planning department. Officials for years have criticized Westfield's inattention and lack of reinvestment at the Westfield Shoppingtown Downtown Plaza.

"We've been asking Westfield to come back with a comprehensive makeover and it sounds like they've done that," said Vice Mayor Rob Fong.

Councilman Ray Tretheway, whose district includes downtown, said Westfield's proposal removes many, many doubts" about the mall owner's commitment to the property.

The plan would expand by 140,000 square feet the 1.2 million-square-foot mall, said David Kwong, city planning manager.

Westfield envisions transforming the office-like exterior into a sleek, open and updated building. Said Green, "It will have a strong retail presence -- you'll see fashion, see display windows, see people moving up and down -- a significant change to the L Street facade."

The structure at 515 L St., which houses Morton's of Chicago restaurant, would be torn down. It would be replaced with a grocery store on the ground floor and a 400,000-square-foot Target on the second and third levels, city officials said.

Westfield has signed a letter of intent with Target but is not officially naming the company as its new anchor until the city and Westfield's board approve the plans. However, city officials say the store is a Target.

Westfield hasn't signed a supermarket, but has talked with Whole Foods, Nugget and Bristol Farms.

The seven theaters now at the west end of the mall would be eliminated and the food court expanded, with an addition of a new restaurant or more retail. A new, expanded 3,800-seat theater complex would be moved to Seventh and K streets.

The Hard Rock Cafe would be on the first level, a retail store on the second, and the cineplex on the third floor.

Westfield listened to a city request to place the theaters atop the Hard Rock to boost foot traffic on the struggling K Street mall, Kaplan said. But the engineering difficulties and extra costs inherent in that design would require city financial help.

Early last year, Westfield estimated that the theater job would take a $5 million city subsidy. Skyrocketing construction costs substantially boosted the price tag, Kaplan said.

"We're doing everything we can to make the city's desire a reality, but the reality is that it will take a higher contribution than estimated," Kaplan said.

Westfield will be competing for a dwindling amount of redevelopment funds. Several large projects have put in requests for city subsidies in excess of $104 million, but $22 million remains in the redevelopment kitty.

On Wednesday, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership board voted to recommend that the two biggest priorities are moving the Greyhound bus station and renovating Westfield.

Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, said the two projects are pivotal to the success of the city's urban core. However, he said it's time to hear specifics about other tenants and detail why $20 million is needed.

Tretheway said the council would need to carefully weigh all applications for funds, including Westfield's. "The good news for them is that they have their plans in and they're now in line," he said. "If they'd kept missing their deadlines, they would have been out of the picture."

Meanwhile, community leaders have said they fear a larger complex will show art films and put the Broadway's venerable Tower Theatre out of business.

Century Theatres, which operates movies at Downtown Plaza, has said it wanted 16 screens in in expanded movie complex. But Century's merger with Cinemark Theatres has made it unclear how many screens would be built, Westfield said. Fong and other city leaders have said they will allow no more than 12 screens.

Luree Stetson, a member of the Tower District Alliance, said the position of Alliance and of Reading International, owners of the Tower, hasn't changed, she said. "A plan with 3,800 seats is a problem," Stetson said.

Plans were submitted last week to the city's development services department. It will take three to six months to go through the review process of design and environmental impacts, Kwong said. The Planning Commission has final approval of the project.

Westfield is also planning to submit a document detailing its costs and request for city subsidy to the city's economic development department. That department will evaluate the request and take a recommendation to the City Council by the end of the year, officials said.

Friday, August 11, 2006

New Member to LivingInUrbanSac

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce the first and only other contributing member to LivingInUrbanSac, Mike Zwahlen

Mike captures amazing photos of Sacramento, in particular Downtown and Midtown. I have asked him to periodically stop by and show off some of his work to people who read this blog.

I think you will agree when seeing his pictures, Mike shows some amazing sides of Sacramento.

Live Theatre at 10th and K Coming True?

Looks like we may actually get that live theatre venue t 10th and K after all.

City Council Staff Report

Next Tuesday, the city council with enter a ERN with K Street Central for converting the Woolworth building at the corner of 10th and K into a 200+ seat live theater space, with restaurant and second level lounge and patio space.

This is an excellent project. Like I have stated before, the east end of K Street (10th - 13th) could easily be our "Theater District" with the community center (God, that place need a face lift) Crest, Imax, Music Circus, and Memorial all within a few blocks. Another venue will further develop that idea of a "Theater District". Mix in a series of restaurants and nightclubs for all ages and the synergy will be amazing.

The deal is going to cost some redevelopment money, but culture and arts projects like this don't happen without public help.

The time line seems pretty aggressive as well, it says it may be open by early 2008. So let's hope it's done by mid 2008.

The other portion of the 10th and K project sounds like is going to be a 14-story condo project by the CIM Group. The same developers as the 800 J Lofts project that just completed. That project is coming further down the road though.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sacramento Civil War: The Arena Debate

I have stayed away from this topic since there was nothing ever finalized. Finally after 6 years the debate has come to the forefront.

Bottom line for me: We need this arena.

I hear so many arguments against this and many times they are very shortsighted and only make this out to be about the Kings and the Maloofs. Those people are wrong.

We hear a lot about how it will energize downtown, yeah that may be the case for the Railyards, but downtown is already on it's way. This is truly about quality of life here in Sacramento and how to make it even better.

*People argue that entertainment dollars simply shift from one location to another locally.
While that may be the case in other cities, that is not the case here in Sacramento. Other cities, such as SF, have multiple facilities that can hold large events. If they lose one, the event will most likely go to another venue.

Think about it, here in Sacramento, we have Arco Arena and that is it for major concerts. Sorry, but I don't see Bocelli or U2 performing at the Memorial. Anyone in Sacramento that wants to see those performances will now have to travel to the Bay Area for shows...thus taking all their entertainment dollars with them. Of those 17,317 people that go to events at Arco, how many of them do you think go out to dinner or drinks before hand? 1/4? 1/3? Whatever the amount is, that money that people spend at events will be leaving Sacramento.

Say what you want, but if the Maloofs leave, Arco is gone and we are stuck without a major venue for shows. We can look forward to spend $3-$4 a gallon and two hours each way to drive to the Bay Area. I think we can tell which way those dollars are heading

*I can't afford to go to Kings game.
It makes me laugh when I hear people talk about how they can't go to Kings game because it's too expensive. Yes, there are really some people who can't afford to go to a Kings game, but a majority of those people who say that are wrong.

You can go to a game and pay a whopping $10 per ticket, add a couple bucks for ticketmaster charge and that's $12 a ticket.

Oh but the parking and the food!!!
Don't want to pay the high prices for bad food..guess what? Try eating at home before the game. Don't want to pay $8 for a beer? Kill a 6 pack in the parking lot before the game.
Don't want to pay $10 for parking? Park at the Safeway or Raley's and walk 15 mins.

You can go to a Kings game for about the same price as going to a movie or 2 daily Starbuck runs. There are cheap ways to go to a game. You don't have to sit front court with 3 beers and 2 hot dogs to be at the game and enjoy yourself

*I don't want my tax dollars going for something I don't use.
That argument holds no water. My taxes go toward quite a few things that I don't use or think I should have to pay for. Since when did we get to check off on our tax returns what we want our taxes to go toward?

The classic example is I don't have kids yet, why should I have my taxes go toward schools I may never even use them. When I have kids I may send them to private school..why should I pay taxes?

Why? Because it's for the betterment of the city, that is why. Just like the arena will be.

*There are other needs.
There will always be other needs. There will always been homeless, poor people, pot holes and other things. Other cites have them and will always have them, we have them and will always have them. The difference is those cities also realize it's not a choice of one or the other. With this tax that equates to $0.25 cents per $100 on TAXABLE goods we can start to take care of those things.

*Value of the Arena
We hear all about this being an "investment" in Sacramento. When you invest in something you want to see what the return on investment is. The problem is the only thing I heard people talk about is the monetary return.

I REALLY REALLY wish people would think of the non-monetary value ("value" is such a subjective word)

For me, there is nothing like a watching a game at neighborhood bar or restaurant where everyone in the place is there for one root for our home team.

I can be sitting next to a ditch digger, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, an executive manager but for those two hours all socioeconomic go out the door and everyone is there for the one common watch the Kings kick the crap out of the Lakers. (I hate you Horry!!)

There are very few things in this city that can do that.

There is "value" in that. The value of civic pride. The value of seeing the Wells Fargo Building lite up in purple as the Kings and Monarchs make their playoffs runs, the value of civic camaraderie.

I heard someone at the County Supervisions meetings say something that totally stuck with me.

"I don't want to have to drive to the Bay Area to create my memories. I want them in my home city"

-The memories of taking your children or grandchildren to see the Wiggles with a big smile on their face.

-The memories of taking your daughter to the latest boy band concert with the smile and satisfaction of knowing how much that meant to her.

- The memories of how excited you felt during game 5 of the conference finals when Mike Bibby hit that game winning shot in game while Chris Webber layed out Derek Fisher.

- The memories of how painful it was when Robert Horry hit that game winning 3 pointer at the buzzer of game 4.

-The memories of taking your son or daughter in person or on TV to his first Kings or Monarchs game with jersey that sports the name "Sacramento" on the front. (I have them in storage already for my first son)

-The memories of seeing some of the most entertaining, famous and talented performers and musical acts in the world. Bocelli, U2, Yanni, Elton John, Mariah Carey, Johan Strauss Orchestra, Champions on Ice, Ringling Brothers, ..the list go on and on!

Talk about "value". I want those values HERE in MY home city, Sacramento


I hope people realize that there will be many many other things Sacramento will be able to do with this money than just the arena. There will be an additional 600-700 MILLION dollars that Sacramento can invest in itself. More parks, more police, more fire stations, more libraries, helping the homeless, maybe a new museum or performing arts center.

Where will this money come from if we don't appove this?

There is something in this ballot measure for everyone. Let's not get blinded by the short sightedness of people that only want to make this about the Kings and Maloofs. This is about MUCH MUCH more than just basketball.

If it were just the Kings I would say, yeah it sucks but we will be fine. But when looking at the big picture, we need this new facility.

I urge people to vote YES on both measures in November.