The uphill struggle to revitalize Del Paso Boulevard and North Sacramento just got even tougher. Yet its success is no less important to the city.
Enotria, one of Sacramento’s best-known restaurants, closed suddenly Wednesday after 17 years anchoring that main thoroughfare and just two years after a $1.5 million facelift. Fine food and wine enthusiasts are mourning Enotria’s passing. While it’s possible another restaurant will lease the building, the closing is a significant setback to a business district already littered with empty storefronts and lots of question marks.
Over the years, many ambitious plans, designed to restore Del Paso Boulevard to its heyday a half century ago, petered out. A 1990s bid to rebrand it as an “uptown” arts and culture district didn’t take hold. Iceland, the iconic skating rink across from Enotria, all but burned to the ground in 2010. LIMN, a high-end furniture store, closed in 2011. The deep recession hit hard. The end of redevelopment agencies in 2012 halted proposals centered on a cluster of 18 city-owned parcels that cost millions to acquire.
Through it all, business owners, community leaders, city officials and others have never given up. This is another test of their resolve.
Allen Warren, the first-term city councilman who represents North Sacramento, says he still believes Del Paso Boulevard is only a couple of major pieces away from turning the corner. “I’m still very encouraged,” he told The Bee’s editorial board Thursday.
The city land, just five minutes from downtown on light rail, is ripe for mixed-use projects. A consultant is trying to recruit a brewery, a restaurant and other businesses. The owner of LIMN and other properties is hoping to open an European-style food marketplace by May. There’s talk of a movie theater and bowling alley returning, plus housing and other restaurants.
Improving Del Paso Boulevard fits squarely into the city’s five-year economic development strategy, adopted last year, which calls for investing in existing commercial corridors and business districts. In its budget deliberations this spring, the City Council will discuss how to pay for putting that strategy into action.
It’s not as if the city has extra cash lying around. Still, it can help with tax and other incentives for businesses to invest in the area, Warren says. The city also has a role in making sure shoppers and visitors feel safe.
While it’s understandable that City Hall is concentrating on the proposed arena and downtown, officials can’t forget that for Sacramento to become the city we all want, other areas have to prosper as well. Some timely and targeted aid could be a big boost in making Del Paso Boulevard the bustling heart of North Sacramento once again.