Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton: Officials remaking downtown inch by inch

Published: Wednesday, May. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 22, 2013 - 8:01 am

In building cities, it's all about controlling land and assets.

After years of suffering undesirable landlords and difficult partners, Sacramento finally has large swaths of downtown land under control.

And Sacramento's best known asset – the Kings – will soon officially be in the hands of a group of achievers poised to invest a fortune in the downtown corridor.

These developments are as exciting as they are a massive departure from the pessimism of recent years when too much local value was in the wrong hands.

Sacramento was a bleak landscape just five years ago. When some say that Mayor Kevin Johnson engineered a massive comeback in defeating efforts to relocate the Kings, they are telling only part of the story.

It's not only that the Kings are staying – it's how the final deal turned out so much better than previous ones.

Last year, it appeared Johnson had choreographed an agreement for the Kings to play in a new arena in the city's undeveloped downtown railyard. Before that deal fell apart, there had to be misgivings about the railyard land being far from shovel-ready – and about the viability of an unsuccessful Kings ownership group moving into the new arena.

Now the unpopular Maloofs – Kings owners once mired in debt – are replaced by a group led by software titan Vivek Ranadive.

The Downtown Plaza, where a new arena is planned, will soon be under the control of Mark Friedman, a Sacramento native and part of Ranadive's ownership group. That's only possible because Westfield, the hugely difficult former mall owners, sold the property to a San Francisco company last year after letting the Downtown Plaza property wither for years.

It can't be repeated enough how Johnson deserves praise for closing the Kings deal once and for all.

But if a new arena is synergistic with the rest of downtown Sacramento, other leaders deserve credit for decisions on smaller projects that stand poised to complement the arena effort.

Former Mayor Heather Fargo was a champion of downtown years ago, when she stood up to terrible landlords and cleared the way for city control of the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street – land that will be the gateway to the new Kings arena.

It was also under Fargo's watch that the city approved a jewel of downtown – the Citizen Hotel across from Cesar Chavez Plaza, where Sacramento will rally to welcome the new Kings owners on Thursday.

Relocating the Greyhound bus terminal was a huge and hard fought win for the downtown. That and many other decisions set the stage for the emergence of new owners of restaurants, coffee shops, wine bars and the like.

A revitalized downtown culture didn't happen here by accident. In Sacramento, it began through the hard-fought control of one inch of land at a time.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.

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Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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