Let’s face it: The walk from 10th and K streets to the new downtown arena can be a little dodgy. Especially at night.
There’s a stretch where just about every storefront is empty and the most noticeable landmark is a huge hole in the ground. Try making the walk on a winter evening, when the only sounds you hear are the rumble of an occasional light rail train or the cries of the crows that descend on downtown every year.
And the thing about nights? That’s when NBA games will be played and concerts staged inside the arena.
The point of that building – and especially the quarter-of-a-billion-dollar subsidy the city provided to the project – is to spark action downtown. We’re seeing it with a wave of real estate investment on the grid, but downtown boosters also want the arena to be a catalyst for a dynamic entertainment district in the surrounding blocks.
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That won’t happen if people don’t feel safe, club owners and downtown advocates said. So they are talking to the city about improving the lighting and security in the neighborhood to make it, well, less scary for suburbanites not used to trekking to the urban core.
City Hall wants people spending money downtown on arena event nights. But officials also want people to feel comfortable walking to the arena from parking garages a few blocks away – like the structure at 10th and K – because parking revenue is the backbone of the public’s arena financing model.
To make the area more welcoming, new and bright LED street lights are on the way. Little touches are in the works, too, like lights on street signs and new strings of lights in the trees that would create a bright canopy down K Street. The Downtown Partnership is asking some K Street property owners to leave their lights on late.
Security in the area has already been increased. Last year, about 10 club owners founded the 10th and K Collaborative. It was modeled after a group in Old Sac, where venue operators pay for security and equip bouncers with radios, allowing them to warn one another when bad apples get booted from clubs.
On K Street, the collaborative pays for two police officers on Friday and Saturday nights. And the Police Department is planning to boost its downtown bike unit and foot patrols in the area.
“All of these things make downtown a night destination for everyone, not just the club-goers,” said Dion Dwyer of the Downtown Partnership.
With a vibrant development being built on the 700 block, a lot of focus is on the 800 block of K Street, where those empty storefronts and the hole in the ground sit. Dwyer said the block might be closed to automobiles on arena event nights. He envisions bands playing on the sidewalks and vendors setting up shop during those times.
These little touches have people like Bob Simpson in mind.
Simpson, who is used to being a K Street pioneer, is ready again. He is set to open three venues at Seventh and K early next year – months before the arena opens. He’s also an owner of Social, a nightclub at 10th and K, and was one of the first venue operators on the revamped K Street several years back.
“If people start hearing about problems, anything like that is going to scare patrons away from coming down here, and that’s the last thing anyone wants,” he said. “It’s got to be safe.”