San Francisco designer Dan Friedlander has championed North Sacramento for more than a dozen years, investing his time and money in the devitalized area around Del Paso Boulevard with projects like the high-end LIMN furniture store and the overhaul of the rundown Arden Motel into über-modern boutique lodging.
The Greens Hotel never caught its stride, and Friedlander closed his furnishings business more than a year ago to turn to other pursuits but the boulevard still beckons to the Sacramento native. He's back with another project: a public market that he and other redevelopment boosters believe could, at last, be a catalyst for wholesale change along the commercial corridor.
Friedlander closed escrow earlier this month on a key parcel of what he envisions as the 2.5-acre Arden Garden Market, a seven-day-a-week European-style venue where customers can buy fresh meats, bread, produce and other staples from full-time vendors, as well as eat from food trucks and pop-up cafes. A separate building closer to Arden Way is slated to house an international market of sorts, with booths operated by Indo-Pakistani, Hmong, Filipino and other area merchants.
The just-acquired parcel, at the corner of Del Paso Boulevard and Edgewater Street, is intended to house smaller covered stalls hawking clothing, jewelry and other goods, and will be open Tuesdays and Saturdays, Friedlander said.
A 4,000-square-foot commercial "food hub," a storage and distribution center for regionally farmed produce and dry goods, is the final piece of the ambitious plan. It is penciled in across the street from the main market building on real estate that's in limbo until the Sacramento redevelopment agency like its counterparts throughout California completes its state mandate to close down and sell its properties.
It will take a year or more for all elements of the Arden Garden Market to be up and running, said Friedlander, who hopes to start with a Saturday presence by late spring. In the meantime, he is seeking designation for the market as a nonprofit community development corporation, and applying for state and federal grants to offset the project's $2 million to $2.5 million price tag.
"The core ideal for the market is bringing healthy food to the table at the best price, with the farmer getting the reward alongside the customers," said Friedlander, who sees his role as the project's facilitator and not its operations manager.
The push comes as the stretch of Del Paso Boulevard between Highway 160 and El Camino Avenue continues to redefine itself. For years, the struggling neighborhood positioned itself as a gallery district, which met with limited success. Nowadays, the Del Paso Business Improvement District is backing an effort to brand and market the area as the Del Paso Design District, hoping to attract architects, graphic and Web designers, as well as tile showrooms and other light manufacturing businesses.
Leslie Fritzsche, downtown development manager with the city of Sacramento's Economic Development Department, says the combination of the Arden Garden Market and the push to recruit design-related businesses to the area provides needed synergy. She points to the success of the GOOD: street food + design market held monthly last summer and fall in one of Friedlander's market buildings as a hopeful barometer. The Sunday event, with its food trucks and merchants, drew an average of a thousand people a month, organizers say.
"(The market) could be a tremendous niche for Del Paso Boulevard, along with the design district aspect of it," said Fritzsche, who will also be involved in the disposition of the redevelopment agency's commercial properties. "You're already seeing some signs with the GOOD event. There's continued interest and growing numbers of people willing to come out to Del Paso Boulevard and look at it a little differently."
Friedlander, roundly considered an arbiter of contemporary design, hopes the Arden Garden Market itself will look different. He has secured the Sacramento architectural firm of Dreyfuss & Blackford to donate its services on one of the market buildings, and is lining up other top Northern California design firms to provide similar pro bono work. He has had designs on Del Paso Boulevard for more than a decade, and plans for the market in place for nearly half that time. He is still enthusiastic.
"You need this combination of interesting buildings, empty lots, empty buildings. You can't make the change if everything is settled and done," he said. "If people see the market's going to come, they are going to snap up these 40 empty (redevelopment) buildings. The best days are to come."
Law student Natalie Kuffel, who has lived in nearby Woodlake since 2009, likes to think so. With no supermarket in North Sacramento, the law school student and mother of two drives nearly five miles to do her grocery shopping. She grew up in Seattle and is familiar with permanent public markets.
"It would be nice to be able to go and have that interaction with local farmers, to know what you're getting," she said.
"People who've lived here longer are a little more jaded about the boulevard. They've seen things come and go I can't help but see the potential for a workable boulevard."NORTH SACRAMENTO