The first downtown housing project of the arena era opened on the K Street Mall on Tuesday, with 21 upscale apartments aimed squarely at urban pioneers willing to pay premium prices to live in the center of the action.
Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg, speaking at the grand reopening of the remodeled 1911 building at 11th and K streets, called the project proof that Sacramento can bring housing and people back to its city center.
“The visions and dreams of many decades are really happening,” Steinberg said. He noted that the project was built with private funds, not with a public subsidy, and will provide more people the chance to live closer to work without relying on cars.
“Many people said you’ll never be able to build market-rate housing in downtown Sacramento,” Steinberg said.
The one-bedroom apartments are not cheap. Ranging from 550 to 950 square feet, they could rent for $1,850 a month at the low end to somewhere in the high $2,000s. Developer Burke Fathy said his group does not yet know exactly what the higher-end rents will be. The apartments, originally built as residential units, were used for decades as offices before being reconverted to living units.
It’s the first of three housing projects planned to open in the next year on the K Street corridor, sparking a re-emergence of the downtown core as a community where people will live as well as work and play.
Another group is building 137 apartments from studios to multilevel penthouses spanning the 700 block of K Street. That project is set to open next year just a block from the new Golden 1 Center arena. Called the 700 Block, it will include a row of retail shops, restaurants and other businesses on a formerly blighted stretch of K Street.
And next spring, the Sacramento Kings plan to open 45 high-rise condominiums in a tower they are building on the plaza that fronts the arena at Fifth and K streets. Team officials also have talked about building a mixed-use project at Eighth and K streets. The team has not yet released details.
The 11th and K building, which is open for viewing, was most recently occupied by the now-closed Pyramid Ale House. It was once known as the Ransohoff Building, former home of a department store with the same name.
The developers have, however, reached further back in city history to rename it the M.A.Y. Building, an acronym for the 1911 structure’s original downstairs occupant, the Mohr and Yoerk Packing Co., a grocery store and meat market.
The building eventually is expected to house a downstairs restaurant, and sits adjacent to a new meeting hall and event center on 11th Street. Oblivion Comics & Coffee will open later this year in the complex.
The apartments combine modern finishes and appliances with original details such as built-in hutches, coved ceilings and pocket doors. One apartment has a view of the Capitol dome. Others overlook the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. One looks out on the Crest Theatre marquee.
The M.A.Y building sits a block away from the state Capitol, two blocks from the Community Center Theater, and five blocks from Golden 1 Center, which will open in October on K and L streets between Fifth and Sixth. Light-rail trains roll past on the street below.
It shares one of the busiest after-hours blocks in the city with the Crest, Empress Tavern, Mother, Pizza Rock, California Family Fitness, KBar, Dive Bar and Ambrosia cafe.
“It’s Sacramento’s proverbial Main & Main,” said Fathy, a managing partner with Sutter Capital Group. “This is an iconic corner.”
City officials cheered the repopulation of K Street, which once was the center of Sacramento culture, but fell into blight in the 1960s.
Michael Ault, head of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership business group, lauded the M.A.Y. Building developers and others for taking a chance.
“They are presenting exactly what we had hoped to see for the evolution of downtown,” Ault said this spring. “They have a creative approach to doing housing. It is not just about buying property for investment. It is about making active urban spaces.”
Darryl Rutherford, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, contends the city is not doing nearly enough to encourage construction of less expensive apartments that workers at nearby restaurants and the Golden 1 Center could afford.
“We are not seeing the types of things we need to make sure that workforce can afford to live where they work,” he said recently, and reiterated this week.
The city has a fund for low-income housing, paid into by housing developers. But, for now, infill developers in the central city are excused from chipping in to the fund, and that means less money available for the city to produce the variety of rental housing stock that can serve less-than-high-income workers.
City officials say they hope the exemption will encourage more infill development, notably downtown. They say they will review that policy in four years.
Speaking at the building opening Tuesday, Mayor-elect Steinberg called affordable housing an “imperative” and said the city also must push forward on efforts to reduce homelessness.
The M.A.Y. Building won’t be the first upscale apartment complex on K Street in modern Sacramento. That distinction goes to the Cathedral Building, which houses the Ella restaurant at the corner of 12th and K streets. It opened a decade ago with 23 apartments.
Notably, the M.A.Y. Building will be built with no public subsidies. Both the Cathedral Building and the 700 Block project got help from the city. The 700 Block will offer some apartment units priced for low-income earners, a requirement attached to the public funds.
Ali Youssefi, a partner on the 700 Block project, says the M.A.Y. Building is a preview of what can happen on K Street.