From the loam-covered lot off West Sacramento’s South River Road, the evidence of a changing riverfront was clear. Raley Field stood out in the distance; closer still, the city’s evolving Bridge District continued to take shape.
And on the lot Tuesday morning in West Sacramento’s Pioneer Bluff, a crane operator swung a wrecking ball into one of six concrete silos. The demolition job will take about 10 weeks, but knocking down the CEMEX cement storage silos that tower 180 feet over the bluff will help clear the way for the next stage of retail and residential development along West Sacramento’s once-industrial waterfront.
“This is an important step forward in the ongoing revitalization of the waterfront, the de-industrialization of the waterfront,” West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said Tuesday in brief remarks at the site. The project is part of the years-long city effort the mayor called “a massive project to retake the waterfront.”
The Pioneer Bluff area looms as an important part of West Sacramento’s urban vision, city leaders say, joining developments at Raley’s Landing and the adjacent Bridge District.
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The planned mix of apartments, homes and retail at Pioneer Bluff would be set between the nearly completed Mike McGowan Bridge that will connect the suburban Southport area to the rest of the city’s riverfront; and the planned Broadway bridge across the Sacramento River.
A city streetcar connection is also plotted for the site, connecting the new neighborhood to the Bridge District and Sacramento, city officials say.
But the city still needs to clear major hurdles before Pioneer Bluff becomes a residential and retail zone. Companies still house industrial operations on the land, including a storage tank facility owned by West Sacramento-based Ramos Oil and tank farms owned by Shell Oil and Buckeye Terminals.
The city hopes to relocate industrial companies to areas less attractive for retail and residential development. CEMEX had abandoned the South River Road silo site in 2009, moving to a terminal at the port. The city also has space reserved for Ramos at the port for the fuel distributor’s eventual move from its South River Road facility, Cabaldon said.
“The pressure on them to move will accelerate dramatically,” Cabaldon said, as the value of properties set aside for mixed-use development continue to rise. Ramos representatives were not available Tuesday for comment.
He said a move could take decades, but the city can still redevelop land around the tank farms.
“We wanted to take the area back in the long term,” Cabaldon said. “We are an industrial city and we honor that heritage,” the mayor said, but added that industrial businesses on the waterfront “won’t be allowed to expand.”
No developments are yet planned for the site and industrial holdovers remain, but Cabaldon, taking questions from reporters, envisioned “lots of cars, bikes and pedestrians in this district” once the McGowan Bridge opens and development takes hold.
“The most important thing is the two bridges,” Cabaldon said later. The Bridge District has already changed West Sacramentans’ access to the riverfront. With the McGowan Bridge connecting South River Road and an open Broadway bridge, “thousands of cars will be coming through the area. The amount of focus on this area will be larger,” Cabaldon said.
The city had been working for years to move its industrial base off the riverfront, decommissioning the Stone Locks back in the late 1980s; erecting Raley Field; relocating Union Pacific rail tracks in the middle of the last decade and redirecting other businesses to the Port of West Sacramento.
“When you look at it today, it seems a no-brainer, but this took years and years of planning. ...We knew it was going to be a long-term proposal,” said Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas, who as a West Sacramento planning commissioner and councilman helped shape and steer development on the riverfront.
As a planning commissioner in the 1990s, “we talked about reinventing the waterfront,” Villegas said. “It seemed insurmountable at the time, but little by little, being persistent paid off.”
Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.