Sacramento County leaders Tuesday hailed the completion of the Old Florin Town Streetscape Improvement Project as a way to drive economic development in the historic area southeast of Sacramento.
The $4.7 million project added sidewalks and bike lanes, decorative street lighting and new traffic signals along the stretch of Florin Road between Pritchard Road/McCurdy Lane to Kingsley Street. Other improvements included accessible curbs and modernized signals at the railroad crossing.
“We gave this whole corridor a facelift,” said project manager John Jaeger, a senior civil engineer with the Sacramento County Department of Transportation. Not only does the project make the area accessible for pedestrians, bikes and people with disabilities, but it includes new public transit stops as well, he said.
“In order to spur economic development, you really have to provide access to the features and to the business and the parks,” Jaeger said. “Hopefully, over time, new businesses come in here and redevelop these parcels.”
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Sacramento County and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency began envisioning a revitalized Old Florin Town area about 12 years ago, said county Transportation Director Michael Penrose.
Located about 10 miles southeast of downtown Sacramento, Old Florin Town encompasses 430 acres. Much of the area today has vacant land and aging buildings, but faces growing development pressure, according to county documents. It is still populated mostly by families who have lived in the Florin area for generations.
More than a century ago, Florin included a bustling town surrounded by farms, including strawberry fields managed and owned by Japanese American farmers. The area still has reminders of that era, including the Buddhist Church of Florin that operates just south of Florin Road.
In order to preserve the historic elements still remaining and guide healthy development, the county Board of Supervisors named Old Florin Town a Special Planning Area in 2011 and launched the Streetscape Improvement Project.
“The plan really provides for the foundation for future investment, for quality of life whether you live here or work here or want to enjoy the amenities here,” said Supervisor Don Nottoli.
Supervisor Phil Serna said the project has already started to contributed stimulus to the community by providing about 200 construction jobs. Because the project was partly funded with federal funds, contractors were required to buy American-made goods.
Design elements like the streetlights and a water tower replica are intended to reflect the history of Old Florin Town – water towers have been fixtures in the community for more than 100 years.
“The improvements are considerate of Old Florin’s history,” Supervisor Patrick Kennedy said. “We did it in a way that we really wanted to respect what was here before and even bring back what had been lost.”
Construction on the project started in April 2014 and had to shut down several months later while the county Department of Transportation coordinated with the railroad to get the new signals and crossing arms in place, Jaeger said. Work had to halt again when contaminated soil was found near the tracks.
The improvements were financed by federal transportation funds provided by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Community Development Block Grant funds from Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency and local matching funds.
Construction on a second phase of the project is slated to begin in 2018, which will include additional improvements on Florin Road to the west.