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Tired of getting stuck in downtown Sacramento traffic? Here’s why it’s happening more

Sacramento isn’t Manhattan. Not by a long shot. But downtown is going “big city” in one notable way this spring: A building boom is spilling into the streets, blocking and diverting traffic along numerous corridors.

Contractors – with City Hall’s blessing – are turning central city streets into construction zones, with cyclone fences and concrete barriers jutting out into traffic lanes to give workers, delivery trucks and cranes elbow room for Sacramento’s biggest building boom in decades.

With better weather, the work frenzy likely will intensify. Two dozen major projects are underway or ready to go in the urban core, city data show. That includes 820 housing units under construction. Commercial and retail development is in the works for 314,000 square feet of space, about one-third the size of Arden Fair Mall.

It’s prompted complaints from commuters who find themselves going single file on some channeled streets and pedestrians who say some blocks are obstacle courses. But city planners say they are approving more street encroachment permits because it’s the only way for major construction to get done in a tight urban environment.

“It’s a good thing,” city development director Ryan DeVore said. “It means we are densifying and getting the style of urban design that you want to see in the great cities.”

As long as the economy remains healthy, it’s unlikely to stop. “For a generation, we’ve talked about repopulating the central city,” downtown City Councilman Steve Hansen said. “That rebirth is in process.”

It’s led to awkward situations. At 28th Street and Capitol Avenue, Sutter Medical Center employees walk in the street for a quarter block around the Fort Sutter Hotel project construction site.

The streets around the downtown convention center and Memorial Auditorium – notably 15th Street, a major commuter artery – will feel the pinch as an expansion project revs up. Already, behind the Memorial, I Street narrows and curves around stacks of construction material.

On 20th Street, an entire block is sometimes closed for delivery trucks at the fast-rising Press Building, the largest apartment complex in the central city.

Hansen said his office will ask city public works officials to begin adding better signage to guide pedestrians and bicyclists around construction danger zones.

Emily Baime Michaels of the Midtown Association drives through the 21st Street gauntlet at times, where the street winnows to one lane and morning traffic backs up two blocks. As long as she is not in a hurry, she’s fine with it. “The intent is to build (projects) where cars are not required to sustain your lifestyle,” she said. “Are we reaching that tipping point?”

It’s been a learning curve for city planners, who say blocking streets is a necessary inconvenience. On J Street downtown, builders talked reluctant city officials into closing Fifth Street for two days to allow a contractor to assemble a crane to build the new Kaiser facility, then three more days to disassemble the apparatus.

“Our staff thought we can’t allow that,” city streets official Ryan Moore said. “But the contractor said, ‘If you want me to build this building, I can’t levitate my materials or fly it in on a helicopter.’”

The following is a list of some of the major development projects underway in the central city that might be adding to your commute:

Fort Sutter Hotel

At the corner of 28th Street and Capitol Avenue. Developed by Randy Paragary at the former site of Cafe Bernardo and Monkey Bar. The corner hotel will be six stories tall, have 100-plus rooms, a bar and a Cafe Bernardo restaurant. When finished in 2021, it will be a focal point of a burgeoning area, sharing the block with the new B Street Theatre, sitting across the street from the big Sutter Medical Center campus, and perched just a block from Sutter’s Fort.

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An architectural drawing shows the planned, six-story Fort Sutter Hotel at 28th Street and Capitol Avenue in midtown Sacramento. Vrilakas Groen

Press Building

Sitting at the corner of 21st and Q streets, this will be a four-story, 277-unit apartment complex with 9,000 square feet of retail and a courtyard. The developers are Sotiris Kolokotronis and DeBartolo Development. This complex is said to be the largest apartment project in the Central City. It spans an entire block, and is part of what the developer calls the new Midtown Quarter, where state workers can live and walk to work.

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The Press Building at 21st and Q streets in midtown Sacramento is one of the largest new apartment buildings to be built in the urban core in years. SKK Development

15Q

Rising from the corner of 15th and Q streets and overlooking Fremont Park, this is an eight-story mixed use building with 73 residential units, ground floor retail and commercial space. The project is led by D&S Development and Bay Miry. The building will have bike storage, a fitness room, a pet washing station and an outdoor barbecue lounge. The housing and retail will continue to spur development of the R Street Corridor.

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15Q is an eight-story mixed use building with 73 residential units, ground floor retail and commercial space under construction at 15th and Q streets. HRGA, D&S Development

19J

An 11-story, 175-unit apartment complex at 19th and J streets aimed at younger downtown workers, where some small units may go for less than $1,000. Developer Nikky Mohanna said many residents will not own cars. Opening day is expected in a few months. Mayor Darrell Steinberg celebrated its groundbreaking, saying the project is a model for what Sacramento needs if it is going to attract a young workforce to live downtown.

C3

C3 is the city’s project name for a major $300 million expansion of the downtown Convention Center, Community Center Theater and the Memorial Auditorium. Ongoing since last year, it will be finished by the end of next year. When done, the convention center will expand to include new exhibit space, meeting rooms, a large ballroom, a new kitchen, and expanded lobby. The theater’s upgrades include an expansion of its cramped lobby.

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The view of a remodeled Sacramento Convention Center from J Street. Populous, city of Sacramento

Health and Human Services Agency office

At 1215 O Street, the 11-story office building will house more than 1,100 health agency workers. Construction has blocked the street. The project is due for 2021 completion, and will include retail, a multi-vendor food court, employee gym and a pedestrian plaza.

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An 11-story office building will house more than 1,100 Health and Human Services agency workers at 12th and O streets in downtown Sacramento. California Department of General Services

Natural Resources Agency office

This will be a 21-story office building at Eighth and P streets that takes up an entire block and will house up to 3,450 workers in the Natural Resources Agency. It’ll have the largest state-run childcare facility and 6,000 square feet of retail. The project includes work on the historic Heilbron house, on site. Finish date is set for 2021. The building is planned to be net zero energy.

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The state of California is building a new 21-story building for the Natural Resources Agency at Eighth and P streets in downtown Sacramento. California Department of General Services

Q19 and 20PQR

Kolokotronis and his partner, The Grupe Co., are finishing a 68-unit apartment building at 19th and Q streets, across from the Truitt dog park, and 32 town homes a half block away. Those, combined with The Press and the nearby Ice Blocks project, are creating a new urban neighborhood out of a formerly industrial zone. The row of town homes, which back up onto railroads tracks, have nearly sold out, and not at budget prices. The first were priced at around $600,000. The latest is listed for $889,000.

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People mingle outside a model home Saturday in the new 20PQR housing development in midtown Sacramento. Autumn Payne apayne@sacbee.com

Ice Blocks

Nearly finished, this four-block project surrounding 17th and R streets includes 142 urban loft-style apartments, retail, restaurants and offices, making it the first full-fledged infill community in Sacramento, designed as a one-stop live, work, play area. It’s sequestered between the midtown Safeway a block east and Regional Transit’s busy 16th Street light rail station a block west. It has a West Elm store, the stylish Beast + Bounty restaurant, and a Philz Coffee – fronted by a bocce court.

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The 142-unit Ice Blocks condominium complex is one of many developments that have sprung up in recent years in Sacramento’s central city, although experts say development hasn’t turned into a bubble. Randy Pench Sacramento Bee file

Hyatt Centric Hotel

At the corner of 7th and L streets. The former Marshall Hotel is being gutted and turned into a boutique Hyatt standing at 11 stories. It will have 172 rooms, with an upstairs bar and restaurant, and an elevated outdoor lounge. The new hotel will share the far east end of the long L Street block that holds Golden 1 Center. Opening is expected in 2020.

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