City Beat

Is downtown Sacramento’s ‘wart’ about to be removed?

The corner of Eighth and K streets in downtown Sacramento has puzzled city officials for years. Now they have a deal to sell the land to the Sacramento Kings for development, leading to new optimism that the street corner may finally come to life.
The corner of Eighth and K streets in downtown Sacramento has puzzled city officials for years. Now they have a deal to sell the land to the Sacramento Kings for development, leading to new optimism that the street corner may finally come to life. Sacramento Bee file

“We are going to lance the boil.”

That’s how Councilman Steve Hansen summed up this moment in City Hall’s endless quest to turn the 800 block of K Street into something more than a derelict, decrepit and downright scary stretch of real estate.

The Sacramento Kings and the city finally appear to be ready to fill a huge hole in the earth at Eighth and K streets and redevelop other nearby properties. The parties have reached an agreement in which the city would buy the parcels from its former redevelopment agency for $2.6 million, then immediately sell the land to the Kings for $5.9 million. The City Council is expected to approve the deal at its meeting Tuesday night.

Hansen is the guy who once called the block the “wart on the butt of downtown,” so his assessment of the deal in place is fitting. But he and others also see that stretch of K Street as one of the most important puzzles left to solve downtown. Hundreds of patrons heading to Golden 1 Center walk down that block from light-rail stops, parking garages and downtown restaurants. It’s quite a contrast: a block of empty buildings just two blocks from the front door of a modern, $557 million arena that the public helped pay for.

City officials and downtown business leaders had begun to grow impatient with the Kings, who were granted control of the land near Eighth and K as part of their 2014 deal with the city for the financing of Golden 1 Center. The Kings were given a right of first refusal over any competing proposals for the site, a right they executed earlier this year when an ambitious rival plan materialized.

But with Golden 1 Center now open and development of an adjacent hotel and condo tower moving along, there’s a sense that the Kings have created enough bandwidth to take on the K Street work.

“We need to get it done, so I hope the Kings and their partners move full-speed ahead,” Hansen said.

Downtown Sacramento Partnership head Michael Ault, who described the block as a momentum builder for other neglected blocks downtown, added: “It’s something we’re hoping the Kings can execute; we’re hoping this is something we can bring along as quickly as possible.”

A Kings spokesman said it was too early to discuss the team’s vision for the site. But we do know a little about their plans.

Leslie Fritzsche, a senior project manager with the city’s Economic Development Department, said conceptual schematics of the site revealed to city officials showed a five- to seven-story building filling the hole at Eighth and K, with retail on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors.

Developer Ali Youssefi has already submitted plans to rehabilitate the historic Bel-Vue apartments building at Eighth and L, one of the other parcels covered by the deal. His application called for turning the top two floors of the vacant Bel-Vue into 22 one-bedroom apartments, with restaurants or shops on the ground floor. Both plans would bring much-needed housing to the central city.

The impact of the sale of the land to the Kings will likely have a long-lasting impact beyond that corner. City staff is recommending that the $3 million the city will net from the deal be placed into a fund to support future downtown projects. Hansen said the city is “trying to get out of the subsidy business,” but could use the money as a loan to a developer looking for a final slice of cash. The project on the minds of many that could use that help is a boutique Hyatt hotel planned for the former Marshall Hotel on Seventh Street.

For the time being, however, City Hall is content to focus on the boil at Eighth and K.

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