Work will start later this year to convert a boxy midtown office building into a colorful warren of restaurants and upscale retail shops.
Sacramento's Cordano family recently acquired the vacant former state office building at the southwest corner of 15th and R streets for about $2.5 million.
Now family members are planning a multimillion-dollar renovation of the 15,000-square-foot building that was constructed by developer Marvin "Buzz" Oates in the early 1980s.
"We're turning a 'Buzz box' into a state-of-the-art retail project," said Mark Cordano, a Cordano Co. principal and a member of a family responsible for dozens of retail projects throughout the region.
Initial design plans by architect Ron Vrilakas call for a remodel that will create the impression of "four cool midtown buildings, with different architectural styles," Cordano said Wednesday, even though they'll all be housed within the existing structure.
Cordano said he was drawn to the building because of its location three blocks from a highly successful Safeway-anchored center and across R Street from residential condos, Magpie Café, Café Bernardo, the Shady Lady Saloon, Burgers & Brew and the Ace of Spades nightclub.
"We're going to enhance what's already there," he said.
Cordano reports he and other company officials are in talks with several potential users, including restaurants, a convenience market and neighborhood-serving retail shops.
Leases are expected to be signed soon, with about six users taking over their spaces early next year, starting tenant improvements and then opening up for business in the second quarter, said Bobby Rich, a Retail West broker who handled the sale of the property and now is working on leasing.
Despite its squat appearance, the building has high ceilings ideal for "Class A" retail uses, Rich said.
"Buzz must have known how great this location was going to be because he built it with a beautiful interior," he said.
Another big plus: The property, spanning more than a quarter of the block, has lots of parking space a rare commodity in that part of town.
The building became available last March after the state Department of Personnel Administration opted not to renew its lease and its owner, the Kehrig family, from the Bay Area, decided to sell rather than incur the costs of a remodel.
There were multiple offers on the property, from local and regional developers drawn by the prospect of serving more than 2,000 state workers in offices within a three-block radius and others coming to the area in the evening, Rich said. At one point, Trader Joe's also looked at the site but opted against building a grocery store there.
Vrilakas, the project architect, said his goal is to treat the building as an entire block, with storefronts on all sides, including those facing the alley and the parking lot just to the west.
Each corner will have a distinct look, incorporating different building materials and varying elevations all mirroring the urban design of the shops on the other side of R street.
"We're putting in more ups and downs and more ins and outs," he said.
The architect said he sees this as something of a test of what can be done with many of the drab, concrete tilt-up buildings in the area.
"This is the first opportunity to take one of these (buildings)," he said, "and see what we can do with it."