Real Estate News

Mayor launches downtown housing initiative

By Tony Bizjak

tbizjak@sacbee.com

June 05, 2015 05:34 PM

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson on Friday formally launched a “Think Downtown” marketing campaign to brand the central city as the region’s “in” place to live.

“This is our moment,” the mayor told a gathering of developers, government officials, and downtown businesspeople at a combination meeting and cocktail party in a 16th Street event space. “We have to run with it.”

Johnson announced an initiative earlier this year to get 10,000 housing units built in the central city in the next 10 years. On Friday, the mayor offered a pep talk of sorts, calling on people to come downtown to engage in their personal style of “in,” such as, he said, innovate, indulge, inspire, influence or invest in the central city.

Johnson said he wants a mix of housing types: 6,000 market rate housing units, 2,500 affordable housing units for lower wage workers, and 1,500 units for people in more dire need of housing.

The initiative comes as the city is pulling out of a deep recession that virtually stopped housing construction in the region for a half dozen years. Housing development downtown, though, already has begun to pick up.

Earlier Friday, developers of the 16 Powerhouse project, a 50-unit, five-story apartment building at 16th and P streets, announced the first renters have begun moving in. The site, with restaurants and cafes on the ground floor, has been billed as an example of a type of housing that will create a more vibrant downtown – upscale apartments within walking distance of jobs, restaurants and downtown services.

Earlier this year, aided financially by the state, developers built and filled 116 units at the Warehouse Artists Lofts on the 1100 block of R Street. Nearly 90 of those offered below market rents for qualifying artists.

Other home ownership opportunities are getting off the ground. Builders at Township 9, on Richards Boulevard just north of downtown, hope this summer to construct 180 medium- to high-priced town homes, some overlooking the American River, others with views of the downtown skyline.

And developers just south of downtown at The Mill at Broadway site have begun building model homes for a planned community of 1,000 town homes, bungalows and lofts on a 32-acre former lumber mill site near Interstate 5 that aims to attract young professionals and empty-nesters.

La Shelle Dozier, head of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, is leading the mayor’s housing effort. She acknowledged that housing already is on the comeback downtown, but said the initiative’s leaders hope to come up with ways to get more built quickly and less expensively for developers.

The group has talked with developers for advice on ways of streamlining the City Hall approval process. The group also is looking for ways to position Sacramento to win more federal and state housing grants. It also plans to talk with banks and potential investors and meet this summer with neighborhood groups to enlist their feedback and support.

“Even though you have plans on paper, and ideas, if you don’t have an agency” helping pave the way to get things built, “it doesn’t happen,” she said.

Dozier said she will present a list of recommended actions to the Sacramento City Council this summer.