Friday, August 31, 2007

1.4M in State Office Space?..God help us

I went to a couple of the West End meetings 2 or so years ago, and what they were planning was a little better than the East End. There was some attention brought to quality of the open space, instead of open space for the sake of open space, plus a bit of housing, but in the end, it still pretty much sucked.

Yes, the state is a major employer in the downtown area, but I don't think I need to tell anyone they build some of the worst office buildings around, creating dead space where they decide to build.

This line caught my attention:
"About half the agency's employees now work at the Resources building at Ninth and N streets. The state plans either to remodel the aging 17-story building or tear it down."

During the West End meetings there were rumors about this happening, some of us would said we would gladly chip in for a stick of dynamite to bring that ugly building down.


Interest high in office project
State wants private sector to build big new digs for agency.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, August 31, 2007

The state of California is looking for a private developer to build one of the largest state office projects in history, and contenders on both sides of the Sacramento River are lining up.

More than 100 people crowded into a briefing earlier this month for potential bidders to build a new 1.4 million-square-foot headquarters for the state Resources Agency somewhere within three miles of the state Capitol.

"There are probably 20-plus development firms that could turn in a proposal," said Anne Cavanagh, project manager for the state Department of General Services, which is overseeing the effort. Proposals are due Nov. 6.

The state turned to the private sector after concluding that the project -- formerly dubbed the West End -- would be too expensive for the state to build itself.

In 2001, the Legislature authorized a budget of $391 million to build the high-rise headquarters on a two-block stretch of land in downtown Sacramento bordered by P, N, Seventh and Eighth streets. A parking garage would have gone on land nearby at Ninth and R streets.

But by last year, when the state finished its environmental review, the cost had ballooned to $520 million, and probably has risen since, Cavanagh said.

"We walked away from that project," she said. Instead, the state now plans to lease the new Resources Agency headquarters, with an option to purchase it after 10, 15 or 25 years.

The state is asking bidders to submit two proposals: One for 700,000 square feet of space and another for twice that much. The larger amount would allow the state to bring about 4,000 employees of the Resources Agency together in one place. If that's judged too expensive, about half that many would locate in the new building, with the rest remaining in existing leased space, Cavanagh said.

A 1.4 million-square-foot project would be nearly as big as the state's massive East End complex at Capitol Park.

Bidders can propose to build on a private site within three miles of the Capitol or on state-owned property already slated for the West End project, originally envisioned as two towers.

The state plans to contribute its downtown land at no cost, a provision some potential bidders said was unfair to those with private sites.

Cavanagh said the state's downtown property would be expensive to build on for a variety of reasons, including the need for underground parking and the fact that it's surrounded by light rail.

"When you add all those things up, it's not necessarily free," she said.

The building competition has attracted interest from developers in Sacramento, West Sacramento and South Natomas. Potential sites include the West Sacramento riverfront, the downtown railyard and the Richards Boulevard area.

Developer Mark Friedman, who plans to offer a site in West Sacramento's Triangle redevelopment area, called the competition a "high-stakes game."

Because of the detailed list of state specifications, including a requirement that the building include environmentally friendly features, the cost of submitting a bid is likely to top $250,000 and may be as much as $500,000, said Friedman and other bidders.

"Basically what we have to do is completely design and price a building, and submit a proposal that we're willing to live with in 90 days," Friedman said.

Suheil Totah, who is spearheading the downtown railyard development for Thomas Enterprises, said he isn't sure whether the company will compete.

"We're going to take a look at the package and decide if it's a good fit for us," Totah said. "It appears to be quite an endeavor to respond. You have to weigh the likelihood of them wanting to come to your site vs. staying where they are."

John Dangberg, Sacramento assistant city manager, said the city will do what it can to make sure the thousands of Resource Agency jobs remain in Sacramento.

"We're going to keep it here in Sacramento; that's our priority," he said.

About half the agency's employees now work at the Resources building at Ninth and N streets. The state plans either to remodel the aging 17-story building or tear it down.

The building competition is reminiscent of a flurry of state projects bid out to the private sector in the early 1990s.

Eventually, the California Environmental Protection Agency was built at 10th and I streets; the city of Sacramento leases that building to the state. Developer Opus Corp. built the Department of Justice headquarters at 13th and I streets; the state since has purchased the building.

The state later built the East End project, an undertaking derided for its sterile architecture. But Friedman said there's no question the East End has helped revitalize midtown Sacramento. He's hoping the new project could do the same for the West Sacramento waterfront.

"After the East End project was put in, 20 or 30 new restaurants sprung up in the immediate area," he said. "One thing that has helped make those restaurants successful is all the lunch business."

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