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Sacramento eyes redesign of staid Capitol Mall

Thousands attend during the annual Farm to Fork event on Capitol Mall in Sacramento in September, 2016.
Thousands attend during the annual Farm to Fork event on Capitol Mall in Sacramento in September, 2016. rbenton@sacbee.com

With the opening of the Golden 1 Center making Sacramento’s downtown more of a people place, city officials are turning their attention this week toward revitalization of Capitol Mall, the stately but staid and underused boulevard between the Tower Bridge and the state Capitol.

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday is expected to commit $160,000 to study redesigning the streetscape to invite more public use. City Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents downtown and is pushing the plan, said he’d like to turn Capitol Mall into the city’s largest event and festival space, while maintaining space for cars and improving usability for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“This is the state’s front porch in many ways,” Hansen said. “It could be a great public square for the entire state, a place for festivals and events, and not just a street to cross to get from one place to another.”

The street has been increasingly in demand in recent years for Farm to Fork events, the Capitol Beer Fest, the Sacramento Pride festival, a farmers market and sporting events, including the Tour of California bike race.

State officials say they support redesigning the street, although it’s unlikely the state will bear much of the expense, which could be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Given other downtown transportation infrastructure priorities – including work on the downtown rail depot, several new river bridges and a possible downtown streetcar line – it could take years for the city to come up with that funding.

City officials have talked for years about enlivening the mall. In 2011, the city helped finance an international design competition for a major remake. The winning entry included an amphitheater, marketplace, children’s water play area and a forest of oaks and pine trees. But that plan has sat on the shelf since then.

Hansen said downtown’s new momentum makes this a good time to relaunch the effort.

That momentum includes the arena and plans for new businesses in the area, as well as a plan by Crocker Art Museum officials for a major redevelopment of Crocker Park at one end of Capitol Mall. Nearby, West Sacramento’s riverfront is developing with new apartments and condominiums.

To get people talking, Hansen teamed with a professor of urban design and community planning at UC Davis last year on redesign concepts, including turning the street into a single lane in each direction to create more functional room for events.

Some development projects in the urban core are well underway, while others seem years away.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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