From Derelict to Designer

Revitalization efforts are gaining steam throughout the region

Back Article Feb 2, 2016 By Ken James

“What makes these revitalization projects so exciting is the creative new ways we are bringing these historic buildings back to life; it makes it great to get up each day,” says Bay Miry, vice president of development for D&S Development and a well-known Sacramento developer whose project at 700 K Street is just one example of a number of regenesis efforts springing up in the Capital Region.

These creative projects, which resurrect historic, but often derelict, buildings into upscale eateries, breweries, and retail and residential centers, are helping to redefine communities from Vacaville and West Sacramento, to Auburn and Placerville. Here’s a look at a few of these projects, which are part of a growing number of revitalization efforts region-wide.

One of the most intriguing of Miry’s efforts in Sacramento is the plan for the area on the south side of K Street in Sacramento, between 7th and 8th streets. “What makes this one so exciting is we have a rare opportunity to combine all parts of redevelopment; from rehabilitation of historic buildings, to constructing new ones,” says Miry, who is one of the five 700 Block Investors, partners in the project. That entity was formed by principals from D&S and CFY Development. “We plan to include just about everything there, from unique restaurants, clubs for nightlife, retail boutiques, and mixed income apartments and townhouses. It’s a dream project for us,” says Miry.

The renovation, which is already under construction, is slated to include 137 housing units and 72,000 square feet of retail space when completed, which Miry says should be in the early part of 2017. About 60 percent of the expected new housing will be considered affordable housing. A total of nine buildings are scheduled to be redeveloped. While the back part of each building will be demolished, the front 90 feet of each will be preserved and restored. “The unique charm will still be there on the exterior, with all the concrete, wood, masonry, exposed brick and beautiful crown molding,” he says. “It’s not going to be just a cookie-cutter, bland construction. It’s going to be a place people will relate to and enjoy.”

Related: While Looking Forward, Keep an Eye on the Past

The plans also call for the construction of usable basements, taking advantage of the space left 100 years ago when the city’s developers elevated the buildings by more than 10 feet to avoid flooding. At the same time, rooftop patios will be available for diners at the planned upper-floor restaurants.

This renovation, taking place on K Street between 7th and 8th streets, will eventually include 137 housing units and 72,000 square feet of retail space.

A second project well-worth watching is the Sunrise Banquet Hall and Event Center in Vacaville, that recently opened on Orange Drive near Interstate 80. “I had no high hopes for the project when it was proposed, but when I walked in a short time ago, I could not believe my eyes,” says Vacaville City Manager Laura Kuhn. “It was mind-blowing and I’ve been in this business for a while.” The lush venue can service parties as large as 1,500 people and includes three ballrooms, which also can serve as conference rooms, totalling more than 36,000 square feet. It has already become a popular venue for weddings, parties and business meetings. “There is nothing like it in Solano County,” says Kuhn. “In the past, the main building served as a multiplex theater and then it was turned into a church before the owner, Gill Sharma, decided to create one of the most beautiful places in the city out of it.”

The banquet halls feature marble and modern architecture. “It has a San Francisco feel to it,” says Sandy Person, president of the Solano County Economic Development Corporation. “It’s helping this county define its future.”

In Auburn, a revitalization project being built by A.P. Thomas Construction involves a 5,700-square-foot building that once served as a movie theater and then a car dealership before falling into disrepair. In the early summer of this year, it will become the new home for the Crooked Lane Brewery, which promises to become a hub of activity along Highway 49. “It was hard, at first, to see how a brewery open to the public would fit in there, but the owner, Adrian Psuty, had a wonderful vision for it and we came up with a plan that really worked,” says Paul Thomas, who co-owns A.P. Thomas Construction with his wife, Amy Thomas. The former movie theater has tall walls and windows, which are a perfect fit for the vertical equipment of the brewery. “One wall is especially tall and it is nearly all glass, so we are going to create what we call a ‘towering plant structure,’ which is cool — the entire wall is going to be full of light and plants,” says Thomas. The brewery is also going to feature an outdoor patio. “It sits right on Highway 49, about a mile from Highway 80,” he says. “The investors are local and we are using local materials and vendors to build it. The entire project has a great community feel to it.”

Few areas in the state are undergoing more creative changes than West Sacramento. “What’s happening here is amazing,” says City Manager Marty Tuttle. “With the new arena going in just across the river, our riverfront area has seen all kinds of redevelopment activity. We are beginning to eliminate the notion of West Sacramento as a separate entity from Sacramento itself. We now have a vibrant community that stretches out on both sides of the river.” Many improvements are planned, including a new bridge that will connect C Street in West Sacramento to the arena area. That project is fully funded and is expected to be completed by 2020. At that point, the top level of the current I Street Bridge may be converted into a bike and pedestrian crossing. Developers in the Bridge District are seeing great opportunities along the riverfront. More than 1,000 apartments and homes are on the drawing board.

“The entire project has a great community feel to it.”Paul Thomas, co-owner, A.P. Thomas Construction

An engaging renovation to watch there is the ongoing conversion of the historic Washington Fire House into a trendy new restaurant by D&S Development. “The surrounding community has wanted something done there, and since we love to rehabilitate old buildings it was a perfect fit,” says Miry. “At completion, which should be next fall, it will be a two-story restaurant with 6,500 square feet of dining and kitchen area, with expansive patios for outside dining on both floors.” The company is still looking to land the right operator for the restaurant. Miry adds they plan to incorporate an existing, historic fire truck, the Old Mary, into the design.

El Dorado County is experiencing its own revitalization renaissance as Main Street in Placerville continues to prosper and change. “The downtown area is really emerging and re-positioning itself away from just being the seat of the city government, with an eight-to-five culture,” says Jeff McLaughlin, economic and business relations manager for El Dorado County. “There is a bit of a foodie culture growing up there with some great wine tasting rooms, galleries, antiques and good restaurants. We’ve worked really hard together with the city and the business community, and I think you’re seeing this area really blossom.”

“It has a San Francisco feel to it. It’s helping this county define its future. Sandy Person, economic development coordinator,Solano County

Anchoring both ends of Main Street will be two new breweries. At the east end, a “post-apocalyptic, industrial-themed” tasting room is scheduled to be opened by April, according to Tim Daniel, one of the owners of the Outbreak Brewing Company. “The decor will be a clash of metal and steel, the kind of thing you’d see left over after the end of the world,” says Daniel. “We are planning to have music and a bar, with seating for about 65 customers. You’ll be able to see the brewhouse from the bar.” The building, which once housed an unemployment office and then served as a car mechanic’s garage, is on the south side of Main Street between the courthouse and Broadway. “The plan is for us to organically grow into anything our customers want,” says Daniel. “And we actually have parking, which is a big deal on Main Street.”

On the west end of the street, the new Jack Russell Brewery is expected to open in 2016 where a Carrows Restaurant once stood. The brewery has already proven to be a popular draw at its present location near Apple Hill.

“Main Street is now a standalone, with a vibrant arts colony, great food, wine and brews, and a community that supports it,” says McLaughlin. “Like this entire region, the building re-uses are becoming incredibly creative. It’s been fun to watch it grow and even more fun for all of us to be a part of it.”