Sacramento planners approve Kings’ arena design

The Sacramento Kings’ downtown $448 million arena dream took a step toward reality Thursday with initial City Hall approval of the building design and hundreds of pages of planning and environmental documents, zoning changes and variances.

The approvals, by the Sacramento Planning and Design Commission, are a necessary step prior to final City Council approval. The council is scheduled to review the arena deal and the planning and environmental documents on May 13.

The commission notably gave its OK to an agreement for the Kings to eventually build 1.5 million feet of ancillary development around the Fifth and K streets arena site despite requests by unions to delay that approval until union job issues are resolved, and despite concerns expressed by some that the ancillary development agreement has few details on what the Kings would build there.

The evening provided a few clues about what the Kings and partners might eventually construct in the area. Commissioners gave the Kings preliminary approval for up to five bars or nightclubs on the site at the east end of Downtown Plaza, although no time frame was offered for building those venues.

The Kings indicated they want to have some retail businesses up and running at the plaza site when the arena opens or soon after, expected in fall 2016.

Team co-owner Mark Friedman told commissioners the team would like to have 120,000 square feet of retail built: “Our goal is to bring eight one-of-a-kind kind retailers to this market,” he said.

Friedman said a hotel and housing could come later, when feasible.

The Kings did not get everything they wanted. At the city staff’s request, commissioners rejected one of seven proposed sites for digital billboards the Kings want to construct.

That billboard site, on Interstate 5, near Meadowview Road, is too close to a residential area, city officials said. Several residents of the area testified that the signboard would loom over their backyards.

Commissioners said they are concerned about the arena’s frontage on L Street, which they say needs to be refined so that it is not a massive neighbor to the Marshall Hotel at Seventh and L streets.

Commissioners were mainly enthusiastic about what several said they believe is a well-designed building.

“The impact of this building is something we have not seen, and may never see again,” Commissioner Phyllis Newton said.

Kings officials said they are eager to get moving on the building. The team asked for and received preliminary approval to do construction late into the night on Saturdays and, at times, through the night to meet a late 2016 deadline to have the building open.

The team is expected to begin demolition of the east end of Downtown Plaza soon after the May 13 council meeting.

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