Katie Hanten is the founder of the full-service design and development firm Vertical Pacific, through which she’s helping evolve the city’s urban core. (Photos by Terence Duffy)

Young Professionals: Katie Hanten

Meet the emerging leaders who envision a bright future for the Capital Region

Back Article Jun 5, 2024 By Krista Minard

Katie Hanten

Founder, Vertical Pacific

This story is part of our June 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

When civil engineer Katie Hanten moved to Sacramento to take a job in 2015, she drove along P Street in Midtown, sensing the city’s energy. “I remember thinking, ‘This place has charm; I’ll give this a shot for a year,’” says Hanten, 33. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Not only did she stay, but in 2021, Hanten founded her full-service design and development firm — Vertical Pacific — through which she’s helping evolve the city’s urban core. In addition to steering its own ground-up development projects, Vertical Pacific provides civil engineering and landscape architecture design services, as well as construction and development management consulting. Hanten started the company as a side gig, and it soared; she took it full time last year.

 “I’m a doer who respects other doers. My clients and partners know I’m willing to do the work myself to get the job done.”

Vertical Pacific has provided civil engineering services for a number of downtown and Midtown projects, including Esperanza and Blok 49, plus development and construction management services for Studio30 and The Grace. Vertical Pacific also is itself developing Casa Bella Workforce Housing on Del Paso Boulevard, with 10 live-work spaces for minority-owned, essential-service businesses recruited via CLTRE’s incubator program.

By partnering with nonprofits, community-based organizations and developers who share her mission, Hanten works to create projects that elevate local businesses, generate gathering spaces — and help solve Sacramento’s housing crisis. Citing three housing categories (affordable, attainable, and market or luxury), she says Vertical Pacific’s portfolio involves primarily attainable housing development. That is, homes for people earning approximately 80-100 percent of the area’s median income. “They can’t qualify for affordable,” she says, “and can’t afford luxury units.”

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Hanten earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Pacific Lutheran University, then moved to Las Vegas to complete a second bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at University of Nevada. While in Las Vegas, she worked for MGM Resorts International, overseeing renovation and construction of some 1,000 hotel rooms and a dozen retail spaces on The Strip. She credits her parents — her father’s an engineer, her mother a lawyer — for instilling in her a strong work ethic.

“I’m a doer who respects other doers,” says Hanten, who serves as the chair of the Sacramento Urban Land Institute’s Young Leaders Group executive board and co-chair of the organization’s housing committee. “My clients and partners know I’m willing to do the work myself to get the job done.”

Katie Hanten enjoys the patio of Ernesto Delgado’s restaurant La Cosecha in Cesar Chavez Park.

As a young woman in a field typically dominated by men, Hanten says people sometimes expect she’ll be more flexible, more agreeable, perhaps cheaper than her male counterparts. “Misogyny and bias are real issues, but the only thing I can control is my own reaction. It’s really simple: Communicating your expectations and enforcing your boundaries is critical to gaining respect.”

One challenge for Vertical Pacific with ground-up construction involves gaining entry to an industry where a majority of developers have inherited a family business or generational wealth. “The barrier for entry is really high, with a lot of risk,” Hanten says. “It’s hard to get people to finance you without a track record. You’ve got to tie up land, and frantically look around and get people to invest and believe in your abilities and your mission.” But she believes opportunities exist for private investors to back workforce housing and strategic land acquisition and to prepare to jump when interest rates drop.

“I would encourage investors to invest with smaller, younger development groups,” she says. “The stakes are simply too high for us to fail. We truly are in the trenches 24/7, hustling to get projects over the finish line on schedule and on budget. We didn’t inherit anything from anyone, we chose this chaotic lifestyle, and we love it — we don’t take it for granted.”

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