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Property owner wants ‘help’ from city to fix downtown’s most blighted block

The opened tunnel running underneath the abandoned lot and buildings on J street between 10th and 11th Streets is visible on the north end of the lot on Tuesday afternoon, May 9, 2017 in Sacramento. Despite pockets of renewal in other spots of downtown, several buildings on J Street between 10th and 11th Streets sit vacant.
The opened tunnel running underneath the abandoned lot and buildings on J street between 10th and 11th Streets is visible on the north end of the lot on Tuesday afternoon, May 9, 2017 in Sacramento. Despite pockets of renewal in other spots of downtown, several buildings on J Street between 10th and 11th Streets sit vacant. The Sacramento Bee

Is help on the way for one of downtown Sacramento’s most desolate blocks?

A spokesman for developer John Saca, whose long-vacant property occupies a key stretch of J Street near City Hall, said on Friday he believes the market may finally be right to build a high-rise hotel and condominium tower – if his group can get “help” from the city.

Eric Rasmussen did not say what kind of assistance the developer may ask for.

Saca has submitted paperwork to extend the existing entitlements for a 40-story tower at 10th and J streets, called “The Metropolitan.”

“It’s tough to make a large infill project like that pencil without some assistance from the city,” Rasmussen said. “We think his project … is in fact viable.”

Downtown City councilman Steve Hansen has been applying public pressure in recent months on Saca and other property owners to get the 1000 block of J developed. He said the city has been waiting a decade for some action. Saca’s property is on the northwest corner, across from the Citizen Hotel and Chavez Plaza, and one block from City Hall.

Hansen said he met with Saca’s group a few weeks ago to push for action.

“They pledged to come back to me with some ideas,” Hansen said. “I made it clear we were twice bitten (by previous Saca plans), twice shy. They better have a damn good plan and show they can do it and not just have their hand out.”

Hansen said he has not heard yet what type of city help the developer has in mind. He said he expects to meet again with the Saca group in a few weeks.

Saca representative Rasmussen said on Friday that the new Golden 1 Center arena is helping to improve the downtown development market. “The plan is still for a high rise in hospitality. We would hope to have something concrete and have a project moving forward within a year,” he said.

Saca has tried and failed in the past with grand proposals for high rises on J Street corner and at Third and Capitol Mall. The Capitol Mall site, now a hole in the ground, has sat for years, and is now controlled by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton recently railed against the lack of progress on the block, which features numerous shuttered buildings, saying it looks “like a slice of Detroit-style urban blight.”

“It wasn’t out-of-sight, out-of-mind. It was just unattainable,” Rasmussen said. “With the market changing the way it is, we think there is some viability (now).”

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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