Before year’s end, a century-old downtown Sacramento bank building will open to the public as a culinary palace, offering perhaps a dozen distinct cuisines and more than 70 beers on tap.
The extensive reworking of the historic D.O. Mills Bank Building at Seventh and J streets is being branded as simply “The Bank,” with project officials aiming for a late-summer opening.
Construction crews are at work inside the five-story building. When finished, planners say, the soaring ground floor that once served as a bank lobby will house a 33-foot-long bar and space for up to a dozen eateries/kiosks, featuring local chefs and recognizable names among the food purveyors.
A mezzanine will form the second level, with window views of downtown and access to another bar featuring specially crafted cocktails, champagne and fine wines. The basement – where two old bank vaults still dominate the space – will become a taproom packed with locally produced brews, plus plentiful, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs.
Significant space is being built to host private events, including the closed-to-the-public roof garden.
“The idea was to create something that is unique in its own right, not just in Sacramento,” project spokesman Patrick Harbison said during a tour of the building this week. Harbison said two years of extensive research and homework went into planning the revamp of the historic building, which sits a stone’s throw from Golden 1 Center. He added that the city permit-approval process was complex and lengthy.
Harbison said the ground-floor lineup of food offerings – dubbed the “culinary concourse” – will include well-known local chefs, plus some who are “up and coming.” He said the idea was to feature multiple cuisines so that couples and groups could sample dishes to match their tastes.
The basement taproom also will feature eclectic offerings, from popular Northern California beers to brews from far-flung locales.
Harbison said the names of vendors, chefs and brewers will be announced in coming weeks.
The five-level neoclassical building at 629 J St. originally opened as a bank in 1912 and later was named for D.O. Mills, one of the state’s Gold Rush banking pioneers. For more than two decades, the first floor has operated as the Sacramento Grand Ballroom, hosting numerous special events, weddings and other large gatherings.
In the 1990s, longtime Sacramento businessman James W. Cameron Jr. bought the building and converted it into an eye-popping corporate headquarters, complete with a rooftop garden, a 17th-century fountain, a climate-controlled greenhouse and a glass-sided observatory offering a spectacular view of downtown. The rooftop garden is paved with limestone and marble tiles imported from France.
Cameron bought the building in January 1993 from local developer Gregg Lukenbill for about $3 million, according to county records. Lukenbill, also known for bringing the Kings to town from Kansas City, purchased the building for about $1.5 million in 1990 and spent about $800,000 on renovations.
Cameron, who admits being extremely publicity-shy, said this week that the ongoing conversion “isn’t about me.” He called it a business decision that was being executed “at the right time,” given last fall’s opening of the Golden 1 Center and related downtown growth.
The project is being privately financed, Harbison said.
The bank building was originally a one-story structure with a grand main room for bank business. In the mid-1920s, a five-story office addition was built alongside the original structure, and the main banking room was extended.
In 1925, the Mills bank merged with two others; it then failed in the Depression. The building was later purchased by the state and used for office space. It was turned into a bank again in the 1960s. The last bank to occupy it was Security Pacific National Bank, which vacated in 1990.
Spokesman Harbison said “we view this remodel as the building’s next transition as part of downtown Sacramento’s revival.”
More information on the building and prospective vendors can be found at thebank629j.com.