A 16-story hotel and condo tower planned for the downtown Sacramento arena complex got the green light from the city’s Planning Commission on Thursday, a pivotal step that allows the Kings to begin construction of the project.
Planning commissioners praised the project before voting unanimously to approve the design plans. Commissioner Kim Mack said changes made to the design were “phenomenal” and joked that she wanted to get on the list for one of the 69 apartments that will fill the top four floors of the building.
Other commissioners lauded the design for complementing public spaces that will surround the $477 million arena and said the tower would become an iconic structure downtown.
“If we think of the arena as a ripple effect, this is the first ripple,” said commissioner Kiyomi Burchill.
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City planners said they received no letters of opposition to the project from preservation groups or nearby residents, and no one spoke against the project at Thursday’s hearing.
In recent weeks, the project’s design team made several changes to the tower plans at the request of planning commissioners and city architects. Those changes included removing a “structural column” to allow for clearer views of the arena’s public plaza from J Street, adding retail space to face J Street and designing a “distinctive top” to the building that “will enhance the downtown skyline,” said Matthew Sites, an assistant architect with the city.
Robert Hale, an architect with Rios Clementi Hale Studios, which designed the project, said the new plans include a more active corner of Fifth and J streets, including retail space that will lead into the arena plaza. He said a streetside cafe could be part of those plans.
The top floors of the building would resemble a “halo signature for the building,” Hale said. He said the upper piece of the building would be illuminated at night, adding a distinct presence downtown.
Hale said the project’s architects have been through “a very intense process” of responding to suggestions from city planners. “I think the result is that we all feel we have made this into a better project,” he said.
Construction crews have demolished the section of Downtown Plaza where the hotel will stand. Groundbreaking for the tower is expected this spring, and the hotel is scheduled to be open by the time the new arena is completed in fall 2016, said Todd Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, the firm developing the retail, hotel and office space around the arena.
Chapman said JMA is in talks with hotel operators and said the group was also in discussions with potential tenants for the planned retail space next to the arena.
“It’s early,” he said. “We have a lot of interest in that space.”
The tower, along with other development the Kings are planning to build surrounding the arena, will cost roughly $250 million. Drawings of the site show a raised swimming pool deck at the hotel overlooking a public plaza around the arena, an elevated green space attached to the rear of the hotel tower and new retail space from one end of Downtown Plaza to the other.
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.