All the talk about a new Kings arena in Sacramento will get real in late July, when construction crews start working 17 hours, six days a week. Some days, they’ll be there round the clock hauling heavy materials and enormous pieces of equipment into the heart of downtown.
Kings officials said demolition on three square blocks of Downtown Plaza will begin in late July. By late December, a temporary, 30-foot-deep canyon will gape where shops once stood. Barriers will surround much of the site, sidewalks will be closed, and traffic lanes on busy L Street will be altered. Viewing areas will be set up on two sides of the mall, allowing onlookers to catch a glimpse of one of the city’s largest development projects in its history.
“It’s a massive undertaking,” Kings President Chris Granger said. The team’s owners, led by Silicon Valley tech executive Vivek Ranadive, have committed to delivering a new arena for the NBA team by October 2016.
Hundreds of construction workers will be involved in the project, carrying out the mall piece-by-piece in 10,000 truckloads. They’ll work from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with a few 24-hour shifts sprinkled in when crews will haul enormous equipment and materials to the site in the middle of the night.
The outside shell and roof of the new arena should be completed by the fall of 2015. Kings officials are confident they’ll be able to install seats, a court and other fixtures inside the building in time to open the 2016 NBA season.
“I don’t think it’s too aggressively fast, but we’re certainly moving at a good pace,” Granger said.
Barriers will be set up around the site after the Kings close on their first wave of financing for the project, expected in mid- to late July. Some work has already started, including the removal of furniture from empty stores at Downtown Plaza. Crews are also shutting down power and water service at the site.
“Everyone is asking, ‘When does it start, when do things get blown up?’ ” Granger said. “We’ve already started, there are just so many considerations along the way. We just want to make sure we do it correctly.”
Downtown workers, commuters and shoppers should expect some changes once the work picks up later this summer.
All three lanes of vehicle traffic on L Street will be shifted left, toward the southern curb, for two blocks in order to create a buffer for the arena construction zone. One lane of Fifth Street will be removed where the street passes through the site, and pedestrian traffic will be blocked along one block of J Street where it borders the mall.
Construction vehicles will add to downtown traffic, entering the arena site from J Street and exiting on L Street. The trucks will haul an estimated 94,000 tons of concrete, steel and construction debris to recycling and salvage centers in Northern California and the Central Valley.
Barricades at Seventh Street and Fifth Street will force pedestrians to walk around the mall to travel from K Street to the Downtown Plaza movie theaters and Old Sacramento. Viewing windows into the site will be set up at both Seventh and Fifth streets.
Much of the parking under the mall will be lost. Garage entrances at Sixth and L and Sixth and J will be closed, but drivers will still have access to parking spots in the garages at Third and L, Fifth and J and under the 24-Hour Fitness on Seventh Street. A total of 2,080 of the 3,700 spots at the mall will remain available during construction.
Shops west of Fifth Street will stay open, including Macy’s, River City Brewing Co. and the mall movie theaters. At the other side of the mall, 24-Hour Fitness and the shops inside a building at 630 K St. will remain as well.
The Kings said sound barriers will be erected around the site, cutting down on the noise for nearby shops and offices. The hole left by the demolition of much of the mall will also create a buffer for construction noise, Granger said.
Asked if nearby businesses would suffer during the effort, Granger said he’d “like to think not.”
“I think there’s going to be a lot of interest that creates foot traffic coming by to see what’s happening,” he said.
A group that has asked the Kings to enter into a community benefits agreement to help small businesses and create affordable housing downtown has said it heard from some downtown businesses worried about the project. The group wants the Kings to create a loan fund for small businesses near the arena and to help businesses relocate from the area, if those businesses can prove the construction hurt their bottom line.
The stylists at Hair To Dye For – a hair salon on Merchant Street, a narrow passage that runs between Seventh and Eighth streets near the mall – said they are worried about the construction period. The shop has around 1,000 clients, most of whom drive to the area, and the street already has limited parking.
“(The city and Kings) don’t understand it takes years to build a clientele and only a short time to lose it,” stylist Toni Fletcher said.
Inna Mironyuk, another stylist at the salon, said nobody has provided official information on the construction timeline.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “The arena is going to be great for the city, but we might go down.”
Some downtown shoppers are concerned as well. Anabel Ruiz, a state worker who was shopping at Macy’s this week, said she is confused about how accessible the mall will be during construction.
“If it looks like it’s going to be a big hassle, I probably won’t be coming,” she said. “I like the convenience of being able to get in and out.”
The Downtown Sacramento Partnership has conducted outreach sessions with businesses. Kings officials have set up a website – www.SacramentoESC.com –and a hotline at (916) 741-ESC2 (3722) that will provide information on the project.
Some nearby business owners expressed limited concern about the project. Others said they were eager for the work to start.
Michael Doyle has operated his M.J. Doyle jewelry and watch shop for 30 years on Merchant Street. He said he isn’t greatly concerned about the next two years of arena construction, given that his shop has survived other ordeals.
“We’ve been more impacted by the gradual deterioration of the mall,” he said. “It’s not like they’re closing some thriving mall.”
He said if the arena changes the perception that downtown is rundown, small businesses like his will be better off in the long run.
Pete Lee is optimistic about the short-term effects. His K&C Gift Shop sells everything from hot dogs and cigarettes to wigs and knives in a crammed storefront on the 700 block of K Street.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It could be better when they start and those construction workers come in here and buy stuff.”
On the other side of the mall, Beth Ayres, the co-owner of River City Brewing Co., is also anxious for the work to begin.
“Where are all the construction workers?” she said. “We need them.”
Ayres agreed with Granger’s notion that the project would become an attraction. The influx of onlookers could offset the loss of people who will think the entire mall has closed, as well as those who no longer come to the area.
“We’ve definitely seen a decline” in business since the eastern part of the mall closed, she said.
Murad Kabani, manager of Zee Jewelers inside Downtown Plaza, said his business’s future over the next two years is “very uncertain” because of the construction. He said Zee thought about leaving the mall but wants to be there when the new arena opens.
“We would like to be here for the long term,” he said. “We wanted to give it a shot.”
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.