Most of the tallest objects in midtown Sacramento are trees, but a pair of ambitious development proposals along J Street suggest that may not be true for long.
First, there was Yamanee, a 15-story condo tower planned for 25th and J streets. A group of city residents is suing to block the project, arguing that its height violates state environmental laws and city codes. But the City Council has blessed the building, and the developer vows to start construction next year.
Now comes another project, just five blocks away. It wouldn’t be quite as tall as Yamanee, but 19J would still tower over the corner of 19th and J streets at 11 stories.
Just the thought of building a high-rise in midtown likely sent many longtime midtown residents into orbit. This is a neighborhood, after all, where residents fight over three-story homes in alleys.
“When I heard about Yamanee, I admit I had a very knee-jerk reaction of ‘No way,’” said George Raya, a longtime central city resident and co-chair of the Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association. “But we’re running out of land; we can’t continue to build exterior suburbs. We’ve got to go up.”
Raya and many of his neighbors support Yamanee. And so far, they seem pleased with 19J.
19J would tower over its surroundings. But in a way, it could also help maintain the character of midtown.
Unlike other luxury condo towers that have popped up recently, 19J would feature studios and apartments that are compact and relatively affordable, with some units going for less than $1,000 a month.
“This is such a crucial project in terms of addressing the affordability issue we’re seeing in midtown,” said Nikky Mohanna, the project’s developer. “The vision is to provide housing for our young workforce.”
Mohanna is the daughter of developer Moe Mohanna, who made news a decade ago when he fought with City Hall for control over several downtown properties he owned. The city filed an eminent domain suit against him – arguing he wasn’t taking care of his buildings – before eventually settling. The family continues to own many downtown properties and has proposed other high-rise projects in the past that haven’t been completed.
19J would be Nikky Mohanna’s first major project. She said she and her father are “self-financing” the work and have the ability to start building next year. They could be in front of the planning commission by the end of August.
It’s a pretty ambitious project. If Mohanna beats Yamanee out of the ground, 19J – at 124 feet – would be the tallest condo tower in midtown and one of the tallest in the city.
“People want to live in the urban core,” Mohanna, 26, said. “As a millennial myself, I’ve designed these units for my generation. It’s really important for us to be mindful that we need to maintain the existing workforce in midtown but also attract new people.”
Raya is paying $800 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in midtown. That seems like a rare deal these days. Perhaps the skyrocketing rents in the neighborhood will change how residents feel about building skyward.
“I know some people really hate change – I do – but this building follows what the blueprint says: We have to have more urban living, and that means going up,” he said.