Category: News

A new neighborhood rises from the empty blocks of midtown’s southern edge

By Ryan Lillis and Tony Bizjak
rlillis@sacbee.com

It is one of midtown Sacramento’s quietest corners, a world away from the hopping nightclubs, restaurants and stores of J and K streets. The industries that once occupied the blocks along Q, R and S streets east of 15th Street mostly departed long ago, leaving a legacy of weedy vacant lots and train tracks.

Now this overlooked part of the central city is about to get a major influx of development. If all goes as planned, it will emerge as one of Sacramento’s most densely populated neighborhoods.

More than 650 apartments and town homes are either under construction or in final planning stages within three blocks of 19th and Q streets. The wave of housing construction – much of it to be offered at upper-end rents and prices – represents the larges concentration of new housing injected into Sacramento’s central city in decades, and promises to turn the area surrounding the midtown Safeway into a teeming village of 1,200 or more residents within the next couple of years.

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The Ice Man: Building Up From the Ashes

After plans for a massive upgrade to the historic Crystal Ice and Cold Storage building went up in smoke, Mike Heller and his team were forced back to the drawing board – here’s how they forged ahead

By Russell Nichols

Nov. 7, 2015
The morning air smells like burning wood.

It’s just after 5 a.m. on a Saturday. Yellow tape blocks off the area between 16th and 18th streets. Mike Heller is sitting by the train tracks on R Street, watching the century-old Crystal Ice and Storage building get burned alive with his dream inside.

No one died. But as fire crews battle the blaze, Heller thinks of his team and the time lost on this project: Two years, 89,000 square feet with 40 percent of tenants ready to move in, a vision for transforming the historic ice plant into an urban hotspot for retail and business – all shot to hell.

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Ice Blocks project moves ahead in midtown Sacramento

03/18/2015 5:19 PM | Updated: 03/20/2015 12:42 PM
Bob Shallit – The Sacramento Bee

A bold plan to revitalize three gritty blocks along Sacramento’s R Street corridor is racing toward reality.

Developer Michael Heller has been meeting regularly with city officials to streamline the approval process for his Ice Blocks project, a 200,000-square-foot collection of mixed-use buildings on R between 16th and 18th streets. He has a date scheduled in May with the city planning commission and envisions starting construction as early as September. Already, he’s begun signing up office and retail tenants.

“Most people think this is an amorphous dream thing out there in the ethernet,” Heller said. “But it’s not. It’s a real vision, a real design, and we are processing it through the city at a vigorous pace.”

It’s a staggeringly ambitious undertaking, transforming what Heller calls a “collection of contaminated properties and screwed-up buildings” into chic housing, shopping and work space. The focal point is the century-old Crystal Ice and Cold Storage building at the southeast corner of 16th and R streets. It will be rehabbed into a three-story retail and office building that Heller likens to his successful MARRs center in midtown, “but on steroids.”

Though the building is in serious disrepair, it has extraordinary “bones,” said Ken Turton, who is recruiting office tenants for Heller. The building has original sliding barn doors and Douglas fir trusses and columns – “architectural elements you can’t find in any other building in Sacramento,” he said.

Turton reports that he already has secured letters of intent from two potential office users. Another broker, David Scanlon of Cushman & Wakefield, is in negotiations with several “high-profile retailers,” according to Heller.

A block to the north of the former Crystal facility will be a two-building complex with 150 apartment units. Across the street, at the site of the former Orchard Supply Co. building, will be a collection of retail structures.

While working “ferociously” on design and permitting issues, Heller is watching as city crews complete a multimillion-dollar upgrade of the street, resurfacing and adding new sidewalks, lighting, trees and benches. “What you see in front of Fox & Goose,” he said, referring to street improvements to the west on R Street, “you’ll see in front of the Ice Blocks.”

After the streetscape is done, Heller said it will be time to “roll” on his $80 million project.

His grand vision is to create a “village” on R Street, with retail resembling the mix on Fourth Street in Berkeley. But unlike Berkeley’s celebrated retail strip, this corridor will have housing.

“I can’t think of a better place to live,” Heller said, noting that residents will have a short walk to Safeway for groceries while also being near the bevy of restaurants and clubs a few blocks to the west.

“You never need to get in a car. It’s a model of transit-oriented development,” he said, referring to the adjacent light-rail line.

Heller, who is 50, has yet to secure financing but said he is confident that lenders will look positively on the project. A plus is the involvement of Sacramento developer Mark Friedman and his family as partners in the Ice Blocks venture.

Heller said he’s cognizant of the risks involved in massive projects but feels the timing is right for this one.

“If you’re an entrepreneur,” he said, “there are times when you just have to trust your gut, get out on the end of the diving board and jump in.”

Back to the future

Turns out that the Ice Blocks is just one of numerous “creative spaces” that Turton is marketing in the downtown area.

The office-leasing specialist recently launched what he says is the first campaign ever to promote multiple downtown properties that offer industrial-look work spaces, with elements such as original brick, exposed beams and concrete floors.

Turton plans to unveil a 20-page marketing brochure at Thursday’s annual broker awards dinner sponsored by the Association of Commercial Real Estate. Besides Ice Blocks, the properties in the brochure include the former Montgomery Ward building at 830 K St., the Hall Luhrs building at 914 Second St. in Old Sacramento, and a former warehouse at 1425 C St.

“Without question, these are the coolest spaces in town,” he said.

So what’s the appeal of these sorts of buildings? They’re fun to work in while providing a sense of history, and their open spaces encourage collaboration, Turton said. Plus they send a valuable message to visitors and clients.

“They say: ‘We have stripped away all the fat, all the cosmetics, all the facades. We are lean, mean and authentic.’”

Call The Bee’s Bob Shallit, (916) 321-1017.

View the article from the Sacramento Bee.

Sage architecture redefines mountain living with the flight house

california-based sage architecture crafted a midcentury modern mountain home in the martis camp development of truckee, california, unlike any you are likely to find in this environment. named the ‘flight house’ for its metaphorical escape from city life but also due to its layered airfoil roofs that hover over the living spaces beneath. on one end of the home, the great room is set firmly on the ground with an exposed concrete slab-on-grade floor that contains radiant heating and serves as thermal mass collecting natural heat from the sunlight. the shape of the roof is carefully designed so as to shade the interior during the summer but it’s curving form opens more surface area in the winter time for natural light and welcomed heat gain. as the topography slopes to a lower elevation, the structure gradually rises under a skyward-sloping canopy until ending in a suspended glass box providing more of a tree house experience amidst the surrounding foliage.

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R Street corridor redevelopment taking shape after years of effort

It’s a sunny late Saturday afternoon, two hours before doors open at the Ace of Spades nightclub in downtown Sacramento, and people are already lining up across R Street to try to snag a prime spot inside to see Canadian-American singer Jonny Craig.

It’s a young crowd, although the occasional 30-something couple wedges into the line. Practiced patience is the order of the day, with most patrons busying themselves with their cellphones. The veterans are used to this – Ace of Spades routinely draw lines of customers stretching far down the block.

As daylight fades, the energy along this 1400 block of R Street ratchets up. The Shady Lady Saloon, Magpie Cafe and Burgers & Brew fill with customers. Inside the R15 bar, built into Café Bernardo at 15th and R streets, red light bathes customers nursing drinks and loudly rooting for various sports teams.

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