What’s that Dr. Seussian structure that suddenly popped up on the west bank of the Sacramento River?
It’s called, simply, the Barn, and its arrival this spring is another result of West Sacramento’s ongoing effort to turn its waterfront into a bustling district for housing and entertainment. Sacramento is also working toward that goal – but at the moment most of the action is on the west side of the Tower Bridge.
The Barn, perched on a bluff south of the bridge, nearly defies description. Its designers, the free-range thinkers at Fulcrum Property and their Dutch architect, don’t even call it a building. It’s “a landmark culinary and event location” designed to draw people to the waterfront for open-air markets, alfresco evening dining, beignets and coffee in the morning, or IPAs during the annual TBD music festival.
The structure, with 5,000 square feet of usable space under its canopy, is part of West Sacramento’s evolving Bridge District, once home to warehouses and industrial shops, now emerging as one of the region’s most dynamic urban infill spots.
For years, Raley Field and its parking lots dominated the area. In the last year, townhouses and apartments have begun filling in. When finished, the Bridge District is slated to include 4,000 condominiums, townhouses and apartments, some of them overlooking the river, housing up to 9,000 residents. There will be offices, an entertainment street with eateries and stores near the ballpark, and perhaps a streetcar line to take people across the Tower Bridge into downtown Sacramento.
The Barn, modest in size at 8,000 square feet, may turn out to be the district’s signature piece of architecture and its main gathering spot. Workers have begun cladding the exterior in cedar shingles, which soon will offer a better sense of how the facility will look.
The building should be usable for some events by April and fully operational by summer. It will have a kitchen and bathrooms in one pod, a cafe in a second, smaller pod, and a vaulted covered area connecting the two over a bed of crushed granite.
Fulcrum’s Stephen Jaycox, the development company’s design director for the project, said he and architect Jerry van Eyck, of !melk, a New York firm, see the Barn as a statement about connections – “the wilds of the river ... locking fingers with the urban landscape.”
West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon lives a block away. He said the Barn evokes the feeling of a waterfall and will help create a unique district that encourages outdoor living.
Fulcrum Property, headed by developer Mark Friedman, recently broke ground for townhouses a block from the Barn, a follow-up to the company’s recently finished Park Moderns town houses.
Another developer, The Bridge District partnership, could break ground this fall on a five-story, 279-unit apartment and retail building called Riveredge, which will overlook the river near the Tower Bridge. Project developers are proposing building an “urban beach” atop the bluff with sand and umbrellas.
“It’s still at the concept level,” architect Bruce Unger said. “A place where people can sit and enjoy the sun, and the skyline is pretty fabulous. Maybe have restaurant food delivered to you on the beach.”
Across the river, Sacramento officials are laying plans to reactivate some waterfront projects that stalled during the recession.
They include the Powerhouse Science Center campus just north of Old Sacramento, to be built at the long-shuttered PG&E powerhouse building. The project includes a full dome digital planetarium theater. Harry Laswell, science center director, said last month that work could begin as early as this year, if funding arrives, with an opening as soon as 2018.
“Powerhouse will bring 250,000 visitors a year to downtown and be the first major step in revitalizing and reopening the riverfront,” Laswell said in an email.
A principal with Sacramento’s Downtown Railyard Venture LLC said last week that his company’s 200-acre development site, near the science center, could someday include riverfront high-rise condominiums.
Sacramento city officials, meanwhile, say they will meet in the next few weeks to begin freshening plans to redo the city marina in Miller Park and to discuss steps to revive a previously shelved project called the Docks, a residential and commercial development planned for an underused stretch of waterfront south of Old Sacramento.
“It’s a priority,” said Assistant City Manager John Dangberg. “A lot of things slowed down as we went through the recession. As we see the economic opportunities come back and the (city’s) ability to staff some of these efforts, we are re-engaging the waterfront aggressively.”