The CalPERS hole in the Capitol Mall may not be dense, black and sucking energy from space, but it’s beginning to feel like it may be turning into a black hole.
It was slated to be filled, finally, by the developer CIM Group and CalPERS, who were planning to build a 790,000 square foot, 33-story office tower. However, once again, an agreement to build on the space has been terminated.
At the time the deal was struck, CalPERS and CIM committed to construction only if a major anchor tenant could be secured. Nevertheless, neither side has commented publicly on why the agreement fell through after announcing the split two weeks ago.
Maybe these things happen. But the hole has been sitting there since 2007 when CalPERS halted previous construction plans by another developer. It’s been 12 long years, a seemingly geological stretch of time when you consider that, in 2007, George W. Bush was president.
Expressed in more prosaic terms, that’s nearing an entire generation of ugliness.
Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen, in whose district this gaping maw to nowhere sits, gamely observed that “this doesn’t mean that the project has to restart, but CalPERS needs to move with a sense of purpose in order to keep the project on track, on schedule and get something built.”
“We are cautiously optimistic that this change represents an opportunity to continue to fulfill CalPERS’ obligations, both moral and financial, to the citizens of the city but also to their investors, which are our public employees,” Hansen said.
Hansen might have also noted that CalPERS has had so much time to fulfill those obligations that Rudy Giuliani was the GOP front-runner for 2008 when they started.
CIM Group spokesman Bill Mendel said his team is “confident that CalPERS will be successful in identifying a worthy alternative for this important site.”
CalPERS did. Enter Hines, a construction outfit from Houston, Texas. They’ll pick up where CIM left off.
We’re not there yet. Not remotely. Why should we think we would be? The Hole in The Mall Gang has left the rotting, dilapidated vacuum in place since Joe Biden bought his first record player.
To say the hole is an eyesore gives a bad name to eyesores. It’s an abomination, an insult, a monument (or lack of same) to inertia and sloth, and an assault on design, human decency, the California lifestyle, American greatness, and every other thing we can think of. But give us a minute more and we will.
Dick Tuck, the late political prankster well-known to Californians, once ran for the Assembly on a platform which included the slogan, “The Los Angeles River: Either fill it up or paint it blue.”
CalPERS and now Hines needs to review the same concept with their hole.
The state capitol of the fifth largest world economy deserves far more than this scab sitting on its visual gateway. The Capitol Mall (don’t get us started) is already 1950s Soviet-level visual dreadfulness, but to yet again be confronted with this news of the CIM Group exit and Hines’ debut is yet another reason to revisit at minimum some sort of transitional design triage.
Fill it up. Paint it blue. Make it a dog park. Make it a grove of palm trees. Install a bocce court. Do a low-water succulent field, a putting green or a Ferris Wheel.
Stop the insanity and take down the cheesy, peeling metal fence, get some dirt in there, and make it anything than what it is now while you wait for the right deal, builder, tenant or project.
CalPERS investors deserve a good return on their investment. We get it. But meanwhile, don’t just leave the hole sitting there waiting to suck another 12 years out of downtown’s energy.