Sacramento’s front door is an embarrassing eyesore of a vacant lot owned by CalPERS. Now word has it that a gleaming new building could occupy it soon.
We hope so, just as we hope that Gov. Jerry Brown will win legislative approval of the proposal he set forth in his new budget to spend $1.5 billion to construct two new state office buildings in downtown Sacramento and refurbish others.
Taken together, the big plans offer promise and pitfalls. If they come to pass, we urge that state authorities aim for beauty, and not recreate the same drab, dreary, gray, soul-sucking government offices that mar what otherwise is an attractive downtown.
We don’t presume to be architectural experts. But any new building must take into account that there is life in and around downtown, and that more will come once the new arena opens. Indeed, two of the newest residents are Brown and Anne Gust Brown, who have taken up residence in the governor’s mansion.
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Neither the state nor California Public Employees’ Retirement System can squander money. The Brown administration cannot build two palaces, one to replace the antiquated Resources building on Ninth Street, and the other to fill a lot a block from the state Capitol.
CalPERS is in the business of making money on its investments, and that includes whatever it builds on the hole in the ground on Capitol Mall between Third and Fourth streets, the site of the old Sacramento Union.
As The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler and Ryan Lillis reported Tuesday, CalPERS and its partner, developer CIM, are contemplating the Board of Equalization as a potential anchor tenant. The board occupies one of the worst state buildings, one that CalPERS built.
Renderings for the new CalPERS-CIM building aren’t yet public. But we are concerned that once board employees leave at the end of their workdays, the area could turn into a mirror image of the East End project, where government offices east of the Capitol bring new meaning to the word “lifeless.”
City Councilman Steven Hansen, whose district includes the hole in the ground and who has been working on filling it for two years, has high hopes, telling an editorial board member that the new building will include condos and retail space, plus office space, and will fit well with an invigorated downtown.
He also believes the Board of Equalization building can be gutted, refurbished and turned into much-needed housing. That would be quite a turnaround for the haunted building where bats once roosted.
We hope he’s right. Architecture has the power to inspire all sorts of big dreams in a city. A tweak or two to the civic landscape and who knows what would happen? Someone might even reimagine Capitol Mall.