For more than a decade, the city and developers have claimed that new housing is just around the corner in Sacramento’s massive and largely empty downtown railyard. Now, it seems one finally is.
The first proposed housing project in Sacramento’s downtown railyard won city planning commission approval Thursday. At 309 units, it’s ambitious both in size and design.
Developer Denton Kelley calls it an urban resort-style project, with an outdoor kitchen, a rooftop deck, lounge areas, an exercise room and a lap pool. It’s the type of dense but amenity-rich complex aimed at outdoor living that is increasingly popular in the city’s core.
The as-yet-unnamed complex would fill a city block at the southwest corner of 7th Street and Railyards Boulevard, which cuts through the middle of the railyard and will serve as main street for the billion-dollar-plus series of developments planned just north of the downtown train depot.
The six-story mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments would sit two blocks west of the proposed 20,000-seat professional soccer stadium, and just east of a planned Kaiser Permanente hospital and medical campus. Plans call for a modern minimalist architecture with touches that connect it to the industrial history of the site.
It is expected to be the first of several thousand housing units that will join the mix in the redeveloped site over the next two decades with retail outlets, entertainment venues, restaurants, markets, offices and a railroad technology museum.
“The railyard project has had a very aspirational view toward a lot of dense urban housing,” said Kelley of Downtown Railyards Venture, a local company that bought the railyard a few years ago, after several ownership changes.
“This is the first gesture toward accomplishing that,” he said. “It is a big accomplishment to be on the doorstep of the first residential project ... a critical milestone for the railyards.”
City senior planner Karlo Felix called it “an exciting start to the evolution of the area from an industrial center to a unique jobs, housing, and cultural center.”
The one ambition it still doesn’t have is a speedy build date. Kelley said the construction won’t start until sometime next year. His team has applied for a state housing grant to help finance infrastructure construction.
The project could have both some of the highest and lowest rents in the central city.
Most of the studio, one and two-bedroom apartment units in the project will be considered Class A, aimed at attracting people with higher paying jobs, including professionals who may work at future tech companies in the railyard as well as at the future Kaiser campus.
Currently, in similar downtown, urban-style Sacramento projects, Apartments.com lists studio rents at $1,500 a month and rents on some larger apartments at more than $2,000 a month.
But, if the developer wins a state grant, the project would include 69 units for renters who meet low-income standards, typically making less than half of the area’s median income. Rents at The Hardin, another subsidized housing project at 8th and K streets, were recently going for $712 per month.
The Sacramento County median income is $83,600 for a family of four, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The county median income for a single person is $58,500. That means, if the apartments were open today, the affordable units would to households earning half of those amounts.
By law, the apartment interiors and finishes on the lower rent units have to be the same as the costlier units, city officials said.
Under new city rules, the project is not required to provide any car parking, given its downtown location and proximity to jobs and light rail. The developer however plans 274 car parking spots. There would be 187 bike parking spots, another sign that private developers are expecting future generations of downtown residents to be less inclined to own cars.