Real Estate News

Downtown’s most ambitious housing project just inched closer to reality

For years, Sacramento housing officials have been pushing to turn the outmoded Twin Rivers housing project at the north edge of downtown into a modern mixed-income community.

The cost is massive, $310 million, and not yet fully funded. But officials plowed ahead this year with housing demolition on the site near Richards Boulevard. They say they intend to cobble money together from government and private sources as they go.

This week, the effort got a $23 million funding boost, prompting City Hall officials to say they have new confidence the project can be completed.

Most of the new funding — from a state cap-and-trade grant — will be used to build what SacRT chief Henry Li said will be a “state of the art” light rail station adjacent to the site. City officials say the station is key to finally connect future residents of the now isolated housing site to downtown jobs.

The funds come from the California Strategic Growth Council, an outgrowth of legislation that Mayor Darrell Steinberg wrote when he was in the Legislature. Steinberg celebrated the grant Friday at a ceremony on site, saying it will help create an inclusive community that melds subsidized housing and market-rate apartments.

“We’re becoming this great cosmopolitan city,” he said, “but it is only good and not great if it isn’t inclusive of everybody.”

Some of the new funds also will go toward a community garden, as well as 500 new trees, solar energy installations, and potentially some of the housing.

City Councilman Jeff Harris, who has both championed the project and worried about its costs, says the grant is a needed jolt.

“This gives me a lot of hope we can make this thing fly,” he said. “This is not a rebuild of a housing project. This is creating a mixed-income community that has mobility options ... a stone’s throw away from the heart of our city.

“This is going to change the way (River District) residents do their lives.”

Most of the 400-plus residents of the site’s 218 former World War II-era housing units have been moved to temporary government-subsidized housing elsewhere. They will have first rights to return when new housing is built.

Map: Sacramento Bee

The project is being managed by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. SHRA officials said they plan to knock down the last few units this spring, then begin work on new utilities and other infrastructure needed to modernize the site, which sits adjacent to 12th Street near Richards Boulevard in an industrial area called the River District.

Redevelopment agency officials said their private development partner is applying for a $20 million state affordable housing grant in February, which will help launch construction of the first new housing.

“It’s that eternal element of optimism that we will be able to pull the resources together, if you just keep working at it,” agency head La Shelle Dozier said.

Dozier said on Friday she did not have a time frame for getting housing started but hopes to break ground in 2019.

SHRA previously won a $30 million federal grant for the project, and the agency has signed up with a private development partner, McCormack Baron Salazar, which is expected to handle the private, market-rate apartment construction for the project.

The ultimate plan is to build 480 new units. Two hundred or more will be subsidized housing, and roughly 280 will be garden apartments and town homes marketed to young workers and families who can afford market housing.

SacRT officials said the station is expected to open in late 2022 or early 2023.