Inside a warehouse the size of an airport hangar, tucked at the end of an oddly named street called Professor Lane, there’s a sign that North Natomas might be getting its swagger back.
It’s just one business, and that can’t fully reverse years of a neighborhood feeling like it was dissed at every turn. But when that new business is Track 7 Brewing Co. – one of this city’s most successful startups of the past five years – you start to wonder whether Ryan Graham and Geoff Scott were on to something when they opened up shop in this far-flung outpost last month.
One night last week, as more than 75 people sipped beer on the patio and inside the brewery’s huge tasting room, Graham considered the quick impact Track 7 has had on the neighborhood.
“When you look out there and see all those people, it’s a reflection that this neighborhood was looking for someone to take an interest and take ownership of it,” he said.
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Most of North Natomas was built in about 10 years. That’s a remarkably quick period of time to turn empty fields into a place where more than 50,000 people live today. City Hall rode that wave of development, cashing in on all the new tax revenue the area produced.
But as North Natomas provided the checks, the city often didn’t reciprocate. Most of a 207-acre regional park in the heart of the neighborhood is empty. Residents often complained about a lack of basic services, like firehouses. A building ban started in 2008 after the feds ruled the area’s levees were inadequate.
And there’s more anxiety on the horizon. Next fall, the Kings plan to leave Sleep Train Arena and head to their new arena downtown. The team has played in North Natomas for 30 years. Their current arena provides jobs and a jolt of pride to the neighborhood.
The Kings haven’t said what they plan to do with the 184 acres around Sleep Train. That has many folks in North Natomas – including its City Council member, Angelique Ashby – feeling antsy and frustrated.
Track 7? Its future in North Natomas is solid.
It had 1,500 people show up on the first day, and the crowds have been steady ever since. The atmosphere is typical Natomas – the customers are racially diverse and there are lots of families. There are food trucks every night, and many people bring their dogs. It feels a lot like one of the craft breweries that’s popped up near the central city in recent years.
And this won’t just be a tasting room: Graham said the Natomas site will be Track 7’s manufacturing hub. The company produced 350 barrels of beer in 2012, its first full year. This year, with the new Natomas facility churning, Graham said Track 7 could brew as many as 8,000 barrels.
One day, this could be the center of a regional powerhouse.
“People can love Natomas,” Ashby said. “When they give it shot.”
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.