City asks: How about a lounge on depot roof?

Sacramento officials are marketing parts of Amtrak station to potential retail and office tenants.
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Sacramento officials are marketing parts of Amtrak station to potential retail and office tenants.

Business & Real Estate

City wants businesses to set up shop in remodeled downtown Sacramento depot

By Tony Bizjak

May 25, 2016 05:25 PM

Want to open a rooftop restaurant on a historic building with panoramic views of the downtown skyline? The city of Sacramento has something it’d like to show you.

City marketing officials will be offering exclusive tours of the 90-year-old downtown train depot building in the next two weeks to give potential tenants a peek at 25,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and office space the city wants to rent.

It’s been the city’s goal since it bought the blocklong brick structure a decade ago to someday turn it into a modern gathering place for more than just train and transit riders.

Now, after investing $50 million – much of it federal grants – in repairs and upgrades, the city is ready to put many of the depot’s previously hidden back offices, boarded-up rooms and some newly designed spaces on the market. That includes a new glassed-in back room with an adjoining terrace that could make a nice cafe or brewery tap room, officials say. Former loading docks could be turned into boutique retail outlets.

“We want to see the building take on a new life,” said Steve Ward, who is marketing the facility for the city. “It’s an opportunity for it to be a greater place than it currently is.”

The city is drawing on the midtown MARRS building and the WAL retail area on R Street for inspiration, depot project manager Greg Taylor said. He’s also talked with counterparts in San Francisco about how its reconfigured Ferry Building was marketed, and toured redone train depots in Denver and Los Angeles.

The city will solicit formal proposals from businesses this summer, and hopes to select tenants by fall. Businesses could start moving in in early 2017. Rents will be market rate.

Taylor said the city is open to any business that makes sense and has a good shot at being successful. The depot site has a built in clientele, he said. About 4,700 Amtrak and Capitol Corridor passenger train riders come through the property daily.

The 200-acre railyard just north of the depot is slated for development, including housing units and a medical campus. The depot will serve as a connecting point between the old and new downtowns. That development, however, will occur only slowly over years, if not decades.

Commercial real estate broker Ken Turton said the depot’s proximity to the Golden 1 Center arena, which sits two blocks south, should provide potential customers for depot businesses. The arena is scheduled to open this fall.

“In general, it is a good location,” Turton said. “It has a steady stream of traffic.” If the tenant mix works well, the depot could be a “destination” location itself, he said, attracting people from the arena and downtown to eat or shop.

Downtown City Councilman Steve Hansen said the tenant mix may require some experimentation.

“I have a feeling it is going to evolve and be a little bit organic,” he said. But, given the daily commuters passing through as well as convention-goers, arena patrons and others, “there is a strategic opportunity here. It really will be the hub of Sacramento’s downtown.”

The American Renaissance-style building retains most of its historic architecture, including the vaulted “grand hall” waiting room with a massive wall mural, chandeliers, marble floors and travertine trim. Taylor said he’s hoping the upstairs offices with beamed ceilings and brick walls will attract engineering and architecture firms or other creative companies.

One of his favorite spots is the site of a planned roof terrace, framed by an ornate balustrade overlooking the skyline. Taylor said he pictures an outdoor restaurant, cocktail bar or event venue.

“We’ve got a dynamic view ... you are kind of the center between the old and the new development areas,” Taylor said. “It’s all right here.”

The city has begun signing up interested parties for a series of tours in the next two weeks to show the site to business people. Officials also hope to learn how to make the site successful. Many of the spaces that will be available for rent are still under construction and subject to modification based on tenant needs.

Ward said the city will solicit formal proposals from businesses this summer, and hopes to select tenants by fall. He said businesses could start moving in in early 2017, after the depot remodel is finished.

Rents have not been set, but will be market rate, Ward said. The city will funnel any profits back into maintenance and upgrades for the building.

City officials have created a website for interested business:

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak