Business & Real Estate

Proposed shopping center envisioned as ‘gathering place’ for North Natomas

Conceptual designs for the commercial buildings planned for Natomas Fountains.
Conceptual designs for the commercial buildings planned for Natomas Fountains.

A site long planned for an office park could instead develop as a commercial center, expanding the variety of shops and restaurants in Sacramento’s North Natomas area.

“We are planning on doing something that would be a couple of notches nicer than what’s in that area now,” said Ethan Conrad. His Ethan Conrad Properties Inc. owns the 12.5-acre parcel at Truxel Road and Gateway Park Boulevard, which he proposes to develop as the Natomas Fountains shopping center.

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday will consider a request to rezone the property from an employment center, or office buildings, to a shopping center, and review the schematic design for a 115,960-square-foot retail center. If the project is approved, Conrad said, construction could begin in spring or summer 2017, with the center opening for business in 2018.

Conrad said he aims to attract businesses not currently found in North Natomas, noting that his firm has worked closely with Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who represents North Natomas, in an effort to meet the community’s retail needs.

“It’s a wonderful project,” Ashby said. “It reflects sort of the indoor-outdoor spirit and gathering place mentality that is the next phase around Natomas.”

The proposal has been greeted favorably by the community. No one voiced opposition during an October hearing before the city’s Planning and Design Commission, which recommended approval.

The name “Natomas Fountains” begs comparison with the Fountains at Roseville. Located on Galleria Boulevard across from the Westfield Galleria, it features a mix of clothing and specialty stores, spas and salons, and a Whole Foods market. It also serves as a venue for community activities, offering a play area for children and a summer concert series.

It’s a wonderful project. It reflects sort of the indoor-outdoor spirit and gathering place mentality that is the next phase around Natomas.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby

Conrad said Natomas Fountains would include architectural elements to encourage people to socialize as well as shop and might borrow some ideas from Fountains at Roseville, which he described as a “lifestyle” center. But in terms of design, he said, Natomas Fountains would be a more traditional shopping center due to site constraints. The property is between two other large retail centers, Natomas Marketplace to the southwest and The Promenade to the northeast.

The plan calls for 10 buildings, ranging from 6,000 square feet to 28,900 square feet. Conrad said he is looking for a market, such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, to anchor the center. He cited restaurants such as Pieology Pizzeria, a “fast pizza” concept, as a possible tenant, as well as clothing and specialty shops.

Conrad noted that he is primarily a “redeveloper,” who typically buys aging or neglected commercial properties, remodels them and seeks to improve the tenant mix to better meet market demands. Although he would be building Natomas Fountains from the ground up, the objective would be much the same – to fill gaps in the current market.

“We’re really excited about this property and the future shopping center development,” John Brecher of CBRE, the leasing broker for the property, said in an email. “It makes a lot of sense, considering there is ‘retail’ surrounding the site in basically all directions. We have a lot of interest from a good mix of popular restaurants and shops that don’t currently exist in the area and would be a great addition to the community.”

Conrad purchased the property, once owned by developer Abe Alizadeh and his company Kobra Properties, after it went into foreclosure. Alizadeh had planned to develop an office park, but a retail market demand study commissioned by Ethan Conrad Properties concluded there is greater demand for retail space than office space in the North Natomas area. The vacancy rate for office space is 16 to 20 percent, while retail vacancies are about half that, Conrad said.

“This is a really good retail location, on Truxel, where it splits, and one block off the freeway,” Conrad said. “It’s a preferred infill location for retail.”

Tuesday’s council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chamber, 915 I St.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy