With a hospital in the planning stages and a soccer stadium potentially on the horizon, Sacramento city officials took the next step Friday to fleshing out their new vision for the abandoned railyard at the northern edge of downtown.
The city issued a formal notice declaring its intent to launch a new environmental impact report on the planned redevelopment of the 240-acre railyard. The notice was released one day after Kaiser Permanente disclosed it’s buying 18 acres at the railyard to build a major medical center.
A similar environmental review, required by state law, was completed in 2007. Because the development plans for the railyard have changed so dramatically, the review has to be updated. The process is expected to take about a year.
The railyard’s developers said launching a new environmental review reflects their confidence that the new blueprint for the site will become reality. The new plan emphasizes office space and job creation instead of retailing. It will also include thousands of housing units, as did the earlier blueprint.
Developers and city officials said the new review is particularly important to the city’s effort to land a Major League Soccer expansion team. By incorporating plans for a 25,000-seat stadium into the environmental review, even though MLS hasn’t yet committed to Sacramento, officials said Sacramento is demonstrating that the city will be ready for a team if and when the league gives its approval.
“That makes a big bold statement to MLS and the soccer community,” said Denton Kelley, managing principal of Downtown Railyard Venture LLC, which is in the process of buying the railyard from an Illinois real estate firm.
Shortly after MLS chose Minneapolis instead of Sacramento in March for its latest expansion team, Sacramento officials launched a program called “Operation Turnkey,” which is designed to showcase the city’s preparedness for a team. Included in the plan: a pledge to have the stadium site ready for construction once MLS gives Sacramento the nod.
“The start of the (environmental) process represents a significant step in Operation Turnkey,” said Mayor Kevin Johnson in a prepared statement. Kevin Nagle, managing partner in Sacramento Republic FC, said the review will bring the city “another step closer towards our goal of bringing MLS to Sacramento.”
Republic FC’s phenomenal popularity is the foundation of the city’s campaign for MLS status. The minor-league club routinely sells out 11,000-seat Bonney Field in its second season of existence. Kelley’s father, developer Larry Kelley, is a minority investor in the team. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said he believes Sacramento will be awarded a team in the foreseeable future.