Bob Shallit

‘Fun’ Silicon Valley-type office complex planned for Natomas

The Newport Beach company that last year bought the famed Napa Valley Wine Train is looking to make a big splash in suburban Sacramento.

Brooks Street, a real estate development and investment company, is looking to build a $100 million office, food and hotel project just to the south of Sleep Train Arena in Natomas, company officials said.

Work on the hotel – a five-story TownePlace Suites from Marriott – could get underway this fall, with some of the office development getting started next year, said Rich Knowland, a principal with Brooks Street.

The idea: Develop a “creative space” business park with Silicon Valley-type amenities aimed at drawing cutting-edge companies and entrepreneurial startups. The plans also include an outdoor area for music and other entertainment, and a “food barn” with upscale restaurants serving the business park’s tenants and residents from around the area.

“There’s nothing like that in the suburbs and nothing this large” anywhere in Sacramento, Knowland said of the planned 14.5-acre project at Arena Boulevard and East Commerce Way.

He said his company acquired the land four years ago with the goal of building there once the economy improved and levy issues were resolved in the Natomas area.

 

“We like where the market is now and we think the timing is right,” he said. Another factor in the timing: The departure of the Sacramento Kings from Sleep Train Arena at the end of this season will likely lead to new business ventures there that “will be a catalyst for the whole area around it,” Knowland said.

The three office buildings in what’s being called “Innovate: A Creative Campus,” will have a total of about 300,000 square feet of space and target entrepreneurs seeking collaborative work environments.

From our perspective, Sacramento is changing and a lot of the things that people talked about that never took off before are taking off now.

Rich Knowland, principal with Brooks Street

A narrative attached to a city application for the project said the focus will be helping people “dream new ideas and bring products and services to market that positively shape our lives.”

The campus will offer “fun and unconventional” work areas, including “outdoors rooms” for employee meetings and community events, the narrative added.

Among the employee amenities are basketball courts, spots for pingpong and other “playful areas,” Knowland said.

As for the food pavilion, he said he wants to lure “authentic Sacramento farm-to-fork” restaurants instead of national chains. A six-story parking structure also is included in the plans.

Among those targeted for the office space are Bay Area and Silicon Valley companies seeking new facilities in areas where their employees can find affordable housing, Knowland said. The 120-room hotel would primarily serve those types of businesses.

That sort of business migration to Sacramento has not materialized much in the past, despite the hopes of local business leaders.

But, Knowland said, “Sacramento is changing and a lot of the things that people talked about that never took off before are taking off now.”

Brooks Street has about $1 billion worth of property under management in California, Knowland said. Among its larger projects are the mixed-use Newport Banning Ranch residential development in Southern California and the Wilder master planned community in Orinda.

The company drew attention last fall when it joined with Seattle-based Noble House Hotels & Resorts to acquire the Napa Valley Wine Train, which takes tourists on a 36-mile round-trip ride from Napa to St. Helena.

Given Brooks Street’s diverse experiences, Knowland said of the Natomas plan: “We’re very comfortable with this scale of project.”

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