Bob Shallit

Construction starts on downtown Sacramento housing complex

Construction is set to begin this month at the Creamery, an ambitious Alkali Flat residential project that’s the latest example of a mini-housing boom in Sacramento’s downtown core.

Sidewalk paving and framing work on the project’s first 35 homes will start in coming weeks. Mike Paris of BlackPine Communities said he expects to have the 122-home infill project completed by the end of next year.

“It’s over the moon,” Paris said of demand, with 28 homes already sold and others being sought by close to 200 pre-qualified people on a waiting list.

The project’s key attributes: Large and airy contemporary tri-level homes with two-car garages – a downtown rarity – along with optional rooftop patios, a dog park, community gardens and proximity to the Golden 1 Center and other downtown attractions.

Buyers, some of them empty-nesters relocating from suburban locations, seem drawn by the ability to have conventional homes in an urban environment. “They want to continue their lifestyles,” including having parking and storage space, Paris said.

The Creamery, with prices ranging from $499,000 to $569,000, is one of several large housing complexes planned or underway in the city. And it’s one of nearly a half-dozen projects in the region being tackled by BlackPine, a company Paris founded at the tail end of the housing bust.

BlackPine’s first project was Molly’s Walk at Diamond Creek, an 84-home complex in Roseville. Thirty-four lots remain there.

It’s also building 86 homes in three different styles at Curtis Park Village, a project that’s been clouded by controversy because of conflicts between developer Paul Petrovich and nearby residents.

But Paris has already sold out the 12 European-style cottages he built on the site and reports good sales for the brownstones and upscale Estate models that are gradually going in there.

“Over the long haul, Curtis Park Village will be as spectacular as everything around it,” Paris said, adding that Petrovich is going to build a “high-end legacy project there.”

Meanwhile, BlackPine is planning to start construction this summer on a 12-home project, called California Brownstones, at 17th and Q streets, just across light rail from the former Orchard Supply Co. warehouse, and also has submitted plans to the city for four tri-level homes at 14th and C streets.

In addition, Paris is in talks with developers to build 30 or more homes in Oak Park and is checking out possible projects in Chico and Ione.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a builder who left Kimball Hill Homes during the bust and spent his time “floating around,” taking on individual custom home jobs in East Sacramento.

Paris was brought into the Creamery project as a consultant by the land’s owners and ended up buying the entire 8.5-acre site that’s centered at 10th and D streets. His conclusion from the start was not to try to mimic the Victorian-style homes now in the area.

Instead, he oped for “the opposite tack” – a contemporary look.

“That way you recognize the cool Victorians without offending them,” he said.

Time for a change

You might say time stands still in downtown Sacramento.

At least at the corner of 10th and J, where one face of the historic Fred Mayes Diamonds clock is stuck at 3:38.

The clock was put in place in the 1920s, advertising a jewelry store that’s long been closed. The clock was refurbished in 1993 and restored again by the city with great fanfare four years ago.

That last effort involved moving the clock to a Florin Perkins-area sign shop, taking it apart, replacing neon tubes and changing out its electronic innards –a process that took about nine months before it was returned to the street.

Alas, “it started breaking down almost immediately,” said city spokeswoman Linda Tucker.

Tucker reports she discussed the matter last week with city public works officials and said there now is a plan to bring in experts on clock mechanics and neon. The clock will have to be taken from its base, again, and fixed off site.

When will all this happen? Tucker has the perfect answer: “Time will tell.”