The La Valentina project, a new 81-home mixed-use "green" development at the corner of E and 12th streets in Alkali Flat, opens to high expectations today.
Many hope the $25 million project, billed as the new wave of downtown development, will be a model for Sacramento.
"La Valentina represents what is possible in the central city," said Meea Kang, president of Domus Development. "It's part of a rebirth of the neighborhood."
Situated across from the La Valentina light-rail station on the busy 12th Street corridor, the development will include apartments, town houses and five retail shops.
"It's a great project on so many fronts," said Sacramento Assistant City Manager John Dangberg, noting that the development was consistent with the city's goals for infill design and environmental sustainability.
The buildings, which feature solar panels, special insulation and LED lighting, are designed to be almost "net zero electric," which means they will use very little energy from the grid.
"Total energy will be reduced by over 60 percent (as opposed to a conventional building)," said Mike Keesee, project manager for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
The development is a welcome change for a neighborhood that had otherwise fallen into a slump.
"We had a problem with crime and drugs being dealt out of the La Valentina station," said Luis Sumpter, president of Alkali and Mansion Flats Historic Neighborhood Association. "It was a blighted block."
Those factors, coupled with pollution from an old auto-repair shop, allowed the site to sit vacant for 20 years. Several attempts to redevelop the area fell through until Domus came along, Dangberg said.
City officials hope the new development will set an example for urban renewal in Sacramento.
"La Valentina represents what is possible in the central city: a transit-oriented, net-zero, affordable living space one would expect in a region committed to becoming the greenest in the country," said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in an email.
But what differentiates La Valentina from other new developments is its embrace of the environment and the community.
A unique screen wraps around the building to provide shade, while an open design connects the residents with the neighborhood.
"We wanted to do something that hasn't been seen or done before," Kang said of the bold design.
Construction on the 2-year-old project wrapped up earlier this month.
Kang is in talks with several businesses, including a cafe and grocery store, to anchor the 5,000-square-foot retail space on the ground level.
La Valentina started marketing its 81 homes in June. Already, 90 percent are leased out, Kang said. Young professionals and empty-nesters have been the target demographic.
For resident Rick Clark, a 48-year-old interior designer from Hawaii, moving to La Valentina made sense.
"The aesthetics are what attracted me to the building," Clark said. "And the staff has been both professionally and personally supportive."
Clark and his dog live in a one-bedroom apartment he rents for $650 a month.
Kang, whose mother was a social worker, is no stranger to these types of projects. She is working on a similar development on Stockton Boulevard.
"It puts a smile to my face," she said. "I just want to make a difference."