Most of the year, St. Rose of Lima Park in downtown Sacramento is an empty lot of pavement. The surrounding blocks at the corner of Seventh and K streets have slowly deteriorated in recent years, and there hasn’t been much reason to visit the half-acre slice of land.
Now that cycle has been thrown into reverse. Entertainment and housing developments are scheduled to open in the coming months on all sides of the park, led by the new $507 million Golden 1 Center. As a result, city officials and downtown interests are brainstorming ways to enliven St. Rose of Lima and other public spaces on the borders of the arena and adjoining entertainment district.
In addition to St. Rose of Lima, the city and Downtown Sacramento Partnership want to inject life into the area near the “Indo Arch” public art sculpture on the western edge of Downtown Plaza, now called Downtown Commons, and the pedestrian tunnel that runs beneath Interstate 5, connecting Old Sacramento with the rest of downtown.
“We could flank the east and the west of the arena with destinations,” said Dion Dwyer with the Downtown Partnership. “We don’t have the answers yet, but we’re looking at what we can do to better activate these spaces and make them lively both before and after arena events.”
Sacramento Kings officials are brainstorming their own ideas for the public plaza at Downtown Commons. Anchored by restaurants, a hotel and an $8 million statue by renowned artist Jeff Koons, the plaza could host farmers markets, concerts and yoga sessions.
At the “Indo Arch,” there’s talk of creating an area for live music. And the pedestrian tunnel leading to Old Sacramento could serve as a funky location for parties and other events, much like downtown’s Blackbird Kitchen restaurant has hosted parties in an alley off Ninth Street.
St. Rose of Lima is the most high profile of the public spaces outside the arena district. Sitting across the street from the arena, the park is the annual site of the Downtown Sacramento Holiday Ice Rink – and not much more.
City officials, who manage the park, are evaluating what do to with the space. Those ideas include improving the lighting, installing fountains and building a stage in the park.
Bob Simpson, a restaurant and night club operator, said he envisions hosting concerts and festivals at St. Rose of Lima connected to the three venues he’s about to open facing the park. He also said the park could host basketball clinics, feeding off the nearby Golden 1 Center.
“It’s a blank canvas,” he said. “There’s definitely room for improvement there, and I see it as a communal gathering spot.”
Simpson noted that the area near Seventh and K streets won’t strictly be an entertainment destination. More than 130 apartments are being built across K Street from St. Rose of Lima in a massive development that will also include shops and restaurants.
Bay Miry, whose D&S Development is one of the firms behind that project, said “the activation of St. Rose of Lima Park needs to be addressed now more than ever given all the ongoing high-density development surrounding it.”
“It is a rare opportunity for the city to showcase its creativity to a very large audience given all the daily and nightly foot traffic regularly expected in that area,” he said.
The downtown ice rink runs from November through Jan. 18. The Downtown Sacramento Partnership and the Kings have discussed moving the ice rink in front of the arena, but are planning to keep it at the park at least another year.
Following a dip in attendance last year because of construction at the arena and on nearby sewer lines, the numbers crept back up this year, according to the partnership.