The nine buildings aren't much to look at right now.
Only one is occupied. Broken glass, empty beer cans and ripped carpet litter the floors of the others. The stately facades are faded, and so is any connection to the block's historic past.
This is the 700 block of K Street. And for the first time in years, the empty spaces here are poised to come alive.
The Sacramento City Council earlier this week approved a key piece of funding for a residential complex on the block. A new, five-story building with 122 apartments would rise behind the row of historic storefronts, which would hold a live music venue, boutiques and rooftop terraces with views of the Capitol and downtown skyline. Another 15 housing units built over the existing storefronts would face K Street.
It would be the first significant infusion of housing on K Street.
The city has been working for decades to redevelop this bleak stretch of downtown's historic shopping thoroughfare. But the plans today are farther along, and more specific, than they have been before.
For one thing, two members of the city's new generation of chefs have signed leases, as has a music venue operator. And with funding for the housing nailed down, construction is expected to start this fall on both the residential and commercial projects.
"This project is real now," said City Manager John Shirey.
D&S Development and CFY Development were granted control of the properties nearly three years ago by the city, which had spent tens of millions of dollars acquiring them. After wrangling with multiple financing plans and the persistent economic downturn, the development team devised a workable project.
Maneuvering the cracked walls and dark hallways of the gutted buildings this week, Bay Miry of D&S and Ali Youssefi of CFY eagerly described their plans. Outside, a steady stream of downtown workers on their lunch breaks filed past, paying little attention to the dilapidated structures.
"People probably walk up and down this block every day and they don't recognize the character of these buildings," said Youssefi, whose firm is building artist lofts on R Street and converted the former Globe Mills plant in Alkali Flat into apartments.
The most stately of the buildings is the former Pacific States Savings & Loan Building at the corner of Seventh and K, recognized by its elegant - and broken - clock facing the Downtown Plaza.
That building, along with the former Joe Sun & Co. clothing store next door, has been leased to the operators of the Ace of Spades music venue and Shady Lady bar to open a live music spot with a capacity of more than 700. The concert hall will have mezzanine viewing areas, a kitchen and bar, and a rooftop terrace.
Underneath the music venue, the Shady Lady operators have signed a lease for a "speakeasy-style" bar and restaurant. Shady Lady and Ace of Spades anchor a complex at 14th and R streets that Miry's D&S Development built.
Local chef Adam Pechal has signed on to open a restaurant next to the music venue; the eatery will also have rooftop seating. Pechal, the chef and co-owner of Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en, was a recent contestant on ABC's reality series "The Taste."
In the basement of the building next to Pechal's restaurant, well-known sushi chef Bill Ngo of midtown's Kru has agreed to open an eatery.
Miry and Youssefi expect the restaurants will create outdoor seating along the block, which has some of the widest sidewalks in the central city. They are also in discussions with a coffeehouse operator for one of the sites, and plan to lure a small grocer for the ground floor of the residential tower.
The developers said they have avoided finalizing tenants for the other properties until the spaces are cleaned and ready to showcase. Those include a former Tower Records store at 726 K St., where the entrance features a colorful mural the developers plan to refinish.
Downtown interests are eager for the project to inject life into the western end of K Street. The blocks at the eastern end of the former pedestrian mall have seen steady improvement in the past two years, but the area closest to the Downtown Plaza has struggled.
A revamped 700 block would "give people a reason to look westward when they walk out of the Convention Center," said Michael Ault, the executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.
Still, the project would be somewhat isolated. It is surrounded by areas that remain blighted, including the neighboring 800 block of K Street, where a development plan has stalled. The new owner of the Downtown Plaza has pledged to revamp the struggling mall, but the facility's future is unknown as it remains the proposed site for a new sports arena.
Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the area, said the 700 block project is "one of the best things that could be happening to K Street." While 60 percent of the apartments will be offered to low-income renters, the rest will be offered at market rate - a much-needed injection of that pricing level downtown, Hansen said.
"People living downtown is what brings the area vibrancy," Hansen said. "When you live in a place, you're less likely to tolerate the trash not being picked up or other issues. It's a place that people want to take ownership of."
It's been a long road, but city officials insist this is K Street's moment.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved the issuance of up to $20 million in mortgage revenue bonds for the residential portion of the plan to be paid back through proceeds generated by the project. Another $10.1 million in redevelopment funding was approved just days before the state cut off that funding in 2011. Federal tax credits, deferred developer fees and $1.5 million in cash from the development team will fill in the rest of the cost.
Christine Weichert, an assistant director of developer finance at the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, said the developers and housing officials "had to be very creative" to put together a financing plan after redevelopment dollars were cut off.
With the housing financing now in place, Miry said he is confident private local banks will help finance the commercial and entertainment part of the plan. Redevelopment dollars were also set aside for that work.