The former Sacramento Bee parking garage that covers an entire city block at 21st and Q streets was surrounded by fencing this week — the latest sign that construction is about to begin on the central city’s largest housing complex in decades.
The project, to be called The Press Building, will take up the entire block and will house 253 apartments, ranging from 500-square-foot studios to a few three-bedroom units at 1,700 square feet.
It will also contain a row of retail sites expected to animate a long-moribund section of midtown Sacramento.
The complex, at the junction of two major commute corridors at 21st and Q streets, will sit atop what once was The Sacramento Bee’s parking garage. Work crews installed the fencing on Thursday. A development representative recently said construction is imminent but did not give a start date.
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City development officials say the rents are expected to be market rate, which are fast-rising in Sacramento. The central city average rents now are $1,723 for a 874-square-foot apartment, according to research from Colliers International.
That is up from roughly $1,487 a month in late 2016, a signal that demand remains high for apartments in central Sacramento, due in part to the increasing attractiveness of the central city for young workers and for empty nesters, but also due to a chronic lack of available housing stock.
It also means lower-income workers will continue to struggle to find an affordable place to live in the area. Only about 4 percent of the 5,900 new housing units in the core’s pipeline over the next five to 10 years are expected to be affordable for middle- and lower-income workers, according to a study conducted last year by the Capitol Area Development Authority.
The Press Building project, which takes its name from the printing machines still in operation across the street at The Sacramento Bee, will play a major role in a fast-emerging midtown neighborhood near the Union Pacific railroad tracks that once mainly was a site of warehouses, auto shops and empty lots.
That renaissance includes 32 town homes under construction across the street on 20th Street between P, Q and R, as well as 142 units largely built two blocks away in the Ice Blocks project site and a 68-apartment project nearing completion at 19th and Q streets.
The Press Building stands out, though, said Ryan DeVore, Sacramento city development chief. He said he has not seen an apartment project with this many units developed in decades in the central city since development of the Capitol Towers super block near Fifth and P streets.
"Just the sheer size is significant," DeVore said.
DeVore said the surge of construction in midtown, which includes major projects as well at 19th and J, and 15th and Q, represents a level of momentum the city hasn’t seen in generations.
"If you look at everything coming online, these are transformational-type projects coming at the same time," he said.
The Press Building project is a partnership of one of Sacramento’s most ambitious downtown housing developers, SKK Developments, headed by Sotiris Kolokotronis, and the Florida-based DeBartolo Development Co.
Kolokotronis bought the two-story parking garage site from The Bee in 2016.
Kolokotronis, speaking to The Bee last year, said the need for market-rate apartments and town homes is great, and that Sacramento has failed to keep up.
“The market is there. People want to be here. We don’t have product for them," Kolokotronis said, talking about downtown housing. "We are building by the dozens when the market needs ... 1,000s of units.”
The Press Building will be four stories tall, with a courtyard with a swimming pool, and commercial sites on one flank. Kolokotronis estimated that 500 people will live there.
Notably, though, the project is expected to have only 177 on-site parking spots. City officials have been allowing midtown and downtown housing developments to provide less parking. The site is two blocks from a Safeway supermarket, and within walking distance of capitol-area offices, as well as restaurants, cafes bars and night spots.
Kolokotronis has said the commercial spaces at the apartment site could include neighborhood-related businesses such as cleaners, a hardware store, a coffee shop or a neighborhood bistro.
“People are rediscovering the urban core," Kolokotronis said last year. "People want to be closer to where the action is, to amenities.”