Thousands of commuters will face several days of construction detours and possible delays on their ride into downtown starting Friday, but that short-term commute pain will lead to long-term community economic benefit, downtown officials say.
The city will close 16th Street, a main commute route, at R Street for five days so crews can rebuild the intersection as part of an R Street Corridor modernization program. Tens of millions of dollars in public and private investments are being pumped into the area southeast of the Capitol, turning the formerly moribund warehouse district into a live-work-play neighborhood.
Crews will wait until 9 a.m. Friday, after the peak of the morning rush, before closing 16th Street at R. The intersection will be reopened before next Wednesday morning’s commute. City officials say they chose this weekend for the work because city employees have Monday off and state workers have Tuesday off for the Cesar Chavez holiday.
The city will detour northbound 16th Street drivers onto S Street, north on 14th Street, east on Q Street, back to 16th Street. Officials are suggesting drivers try other routes as well.
The redo is part of a years-long effort by the city and the Capitol Area Development Authority to fix the street and sidewalks on R Street from 10th to 18th streets, using pedestrian and bike-friendly designs that create a sense of place. That includes a nod to the street’s past by keeping the train tracks in place, albeit unused, amid cobbles.
The current $4.5 million project, between 16th and 18th streets, will be finished in July, opening that area for a development called the Ice Blocks, focused on rehabilitating the Crystal Ice Co.’s former cold-storage plant site for new uses.
Developer Michael Heller plans to turn those buildings into a retail and entertainment site similar to, but much larger than, his successful MARRS building on 20th Street in midtown Sacramento. That work may start later this year. Heller also plans to build 150 apartment units and retail buildings on the north side of R Street.
CADA official Todd Leon, the state’s R Street development manager, said the timing of the groundwork, postrecession, is good.
Longtime property owners increasingly are willing to sell old warehouses and empty sites along the corridor, and developers are more interested in buying and building, encouraged by some early successes, Leon said. Catalyst projects included the Safeway complex on 19th Street and the string of popular businesses on the 1400 block of R Street, including Magpie Cafe, R15, Ace of Spades music venue, The Shady Lady Saloon and upper-floor condominiums.
“What we had in mind was to foster the environment to make cool things happen, and that is exactly what is happening,” Leon said.
The city and CADA recently rebuilt the street and sidewalks from 10th to 13th streets, setting the stage for the recently opened Warehouse Artists Lofts, 116 apartments in a historic structure that once was an automobile warehouse. Next door, WAL developer Ali Youssefi added a new building with 67 lofts. The site will include a public market below and a rooftop garden.
A former warehouse at 15th and R streets also is being renovated for retail and entertainment use. Due to open this summer, the building will be anchored by the Iron Horse Tavern, to be run by restaurateur Mason Wong. Other tenants in the 6,000-square-foot building are Dos Coyotes Border Cafe, Roxie Deli and a European Wax Center. A fifth spot in the building is still available.
City and CADA officials say they hope to have funding to start work on the last street segment, between 13th and 16th streets, next year.
Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.