At 83 years old, downtown's Hotel Berry has been made young again.
The residential hotel at Eighth and L streets has undergone a $24.8 million face-lift over the last 18 months. Its new owners say it will reopen in September as The Studios at Hotel Berry.
Pre-leasing for the apartments is under way, and 22 applicants were approved as of July 11, according to owner Jamboree Housing Corp. of Orange County. Jamboree bought the property from the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency in December 2010.
On the outside, the six-story, brown brick building doesn't look greatly different, although steel braces reach all the floors. These frames also extend 60 feet below ground, bringing the building up to current seismic code standards, said David Wood, senior project manager at Jamboree.
The interior has been transformed. What used to be storage areas and the old boiler room are now communal lounge areas, kitchens and a computer room.
Jamboree replaced the old electrical room with a trash compactor. Previous tenants had to dump garbage outside.
"When we say we modernized the building, we mean every system is brand new," Wood said. Jamboree installed new phone and electrical lines and revamped the sprinkler system. Free Wi-Fi will also be available on the ground level.
"We wanted to bring the new and also use some of the existing structure," said Wood. Some of the original stucco and brick walls remain unchanged.
There are 104 studio apartments, averaging 215 square feet in size, which come equipped with furniture, a bathroom, kitchenette, heating and air conditioning.
Rent will run from $399 to $599, depending on the tenant's income. Jamboree's chief operations officer, Mary Jo Goelzer, said rent follows the Department of Housing and Urban Development's national standards for affordable housing. Applicants must earn at least two times the monthly rent, with the exception of those with a subsidy, such as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8.
The Studios at Hotel Berry are part of the city of Sacramento's effort to revitalize the downtown area while continuing to maintain a supply of affordable housing. In 2006, the City Council adopted an ordinance that requires at least 712 single-occupancy units to be maintained downtown. The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency contributed $10.1 million to the Hotel Berry renovation.
Still, the new Hotel Berry will be very different from the single-room occupancy hotel it replaced.
Many traditional SRO tenants, transitory workers who move often, would no longer find a bed there, as the shortest lease is six months. Potential renters also must undergo a credit and background check.
The units will be more comfortable, with their own bathrooms and kitchens. "The tradeoff is, it's more expensive," said John Foley, executive director of Sacramento Self-Help Housing.
"The Berry's not going to be an SRO there's going to be a different clientele," said Foley. "They'll (Jamboree) have to find people able to afford these higher rents. There are plenty of people working low-wage jobs downtown, who will be eager to be living there."
He said SROs typically served those with very low incomes from Social Security or disability benefits people who may not be able to afford these new prices.
Jamboree's Wood said the new building will appeal to a broader range of tenants. "I think there will be a significant amount of the residents on (Supplemental Security Income), but you can't fill a building with 100 percent SSI folks," said Wood. "Our thought is to change the SRO feel of it and make them studio apartments to attract the working core."