Sitting in the shadows of some of downtown Sacramento’s most significant development projects is a 27,000-square-foot hole in the ground at the corner of Eighth and K streets. It’s been vacant for nearly a decade after rain, wind and fire destroyed the row of buildings that once stood there.
City officials are now cautiously optimistic that they are finally on their way to filling that hole.
Developer Bay Miry said Wednesday he is working on plans to construct a large luxury apartment building on the city-owned site that would potentially include a grocery store on the ground floor to serve downtown’s growing population. He said the building would be similar in style – but larger in scale – to the six-story condo tower he recently built at the corner of 16th and P streets in midtown.
“We want to take what we did at 16 Powerhouse and build on that and bring more high-end housing downtown that targets professionals,” Miry said. “Our team has had our eye on that site for nearly a decade.”
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The city will negotiate with Miry’s D&S Development in the sale of six parcels that make up the empty lot at Eighth and K. At the same time, city officials plan to negotiate separately with CFY Development for three parcels at Eighth and L, including the historic Bel-Vue apartments building.
The City Council voted in closed session on Tuesday to launch those negotiations.
However, under terms of the downtown arena financing plan, the Sacramento Kings have the right to block the sale and control the properties within 30 days. It’s unclear whether the Kings intend to enact that right.
The nine parcels have frustrated city officials for years. A building that faced the corner of Eighth and K collapsed after being damaged in a storm in 2003. Three years later, a fire gutted other buildings at the site; those buildings were later demolished.
Meanwhile, the Bel-Vue has stood blighted for years, occupied at times by homeless squatters. An empty building at 815 L St. is also part of the deal; it was once Sam’s Downtown Hof Brau restaurant and was more recently a nightclub.
“Those properties for more than a decade have been a wart on the butt of downtown,” said Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents downtown. “And finally, we have a chance to turn that wart into something really beautiful.”
CFY and D&S have experience in that stretch of downtown: The firms are partnering on a $55.4 million project that will transform the south side of the 700 block of K Street into shops, restaurants and 137 apartments. That project is expected to be completed in early 2017.
One block west, the Kings are 10 months away from completing construction on the $507 million Golden 1 Center. Another $300 million is being spent by the Kings on restaurants, stores, and a 16-story hotel and condo tower next to the arena.
Miry said the proximity to the arena and the 700 block will boost demand for high-end apartments at Eighth and K.
“The interest in developing these properties (at Eighth and K and Eighth and L), that have been dregs of downtown for years, highlights the transformative impact of the Golden 1 Center,” Mayor Kevin Johnson said in a statement. “It won’t be long before our downtown will be unrecognizable – a true city center where people can live, work and play.”
Johnson is leading an initiative to create 10,000 housing units in the central city over the next decade. The mayor’s office announced last week that 781 units began construction or were built this year in the urban core and that more than 13,000 are in various planning stages.
The projects at Eighth and K appear to be another step toward that goal.
Miry’s 16 Powerhouse has 50 high-end condos, and he expects the K Street project to be larger. Ali Youssefi of CFY Development said he expects there to be a significant residential element to his work at Eighth and L, noting the former Bel-Vue has 26 apartments inside.
The Bel-Vue, built in 1910, was among the most attractive properties to Youssefi.
“Our intention from day one has been to preserve that building,” he said.
Yousefi is also in negotiations to acquire the Feldhusen Building, which was originally built at the corner of Eighth and L streets in 1895 and renovated in the 1950s, along with the 815 L St. space.
Sacramento historian William Burg said the Bel-Vue was one of the earliest apartment buildings constructed downtown that wasn’t a boardinghouse or residential hotel.
It was designed by George Sellon, the architect who designed what is now the Citizen Hotel at 10th and J streets, and it once had a jazz club on the ground floor. The building is a listed city landmark and is under consideration to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The Bel-Vue was built for the upwardly mobile Sacramentan of 1910 who wanted to be downtown and close to the Capitol,” he said. “This was a great place to live.”
Burg, a supporter of significantly increasing downtown’s population, said it’s important to maintain links to the city’s past as new projects come to fruition.
“A walk downtown, a walk in the city is a walk through time,” he said. “If we’re reusing these spaces, it becomes a way to engage with the city.”