Boulevard revamp

Do Del Paso Boulevard redevelopment and SN&R’s green-building project get along? Dude, they’re BFF.

SN&R buys a building, wants to make it green and pays Sena: Eco Warrior Princess to write a weekly column about it.

Del Paso Boulevard could almost be the town of Mayberry. In many ways, it already has the Andy Griffith-feel, with small independent businesses situated on a main street, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and some neat Art Deco architecture. Fran’s Café adds a level of sophistication and Dose Coffee House keeps it low-key. But the boulevard is not located in a fictional town, enveloped in innocence with one sheriff and a bumbling deputy. There are empty buildings, real crimes and fears that keep people away. Still, there’s potential.

“It’s a wonderful mix of different types of businesses and buildings, with great architecture. It has great bones. The corridor has a lot of things going for it, from a redevelopment standpoint,” said Chris Pahule, assistant director of community development for the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency.

Over the past 15 years, redevelopment efforts have focused on restoring this corridor of North Sacramento to its former glory, drawing on its proximity to the energy and activity of downtown, closeness to Natomas, burgeoning arts scene and public transportation access, all of which make the area “poised to do great things,” as Pahule said, which is where SN&R comes into play. Around this time next year, we’ll relocate from Midtown to a building we purchased on Del Paso Boulevard. We’re attempting to renovate the building using green principles, which means we’re loosely following Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines, known as LEED, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

With financial assistance from the city and help from Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, SN&R secured the 19,000-square-foot building and 24,000-square-foot parking lot. City leaders think having us on the boulevard will produce a spin-off benefit, with other businesses choosing to locate nearby, and an employee base of about 50 people obsessed with pizza-by-the-slice, beer, music and living an “authentic urban experience.”

As one of the oldest neighborhoods in Sacramento, the corridor has no doubt seen better days. With the advent of the automobile in the early 20th century came major commercial streets designed to carry a significant amount of traffic. Del Paso Boulevard was built wide for its time (100 feet) and became one of the most traveled roads in Northern California. In 1924, the city of North Sacramento formally was established and experienced commercial success after a bridge was built connecting it to Sacramento. But in 1955, the new Highway 160 diverted traffic away from the boulevard, ultimately causing the area’s decline.

But lately, people are going back, partly due to the momentum of recent projects, and because of five Regional Transit light-rail stations in North Sacramento. In fact, SHRA currently is focused on acquiring land around RT stops and getting infrastructure in place to set the stage for future projects. And in order to make the area pedestrian friendly and welcoming, the city awarded $4.2 million for street improvements with landscape medians, signage, trees and angled parking spots.

North Sacramento is an example of a transit-oriented (re)development area, which means it’s being designed to maximize access to public transportation, while bringing in the right mix of uses so people don’t have to leave the area or drive everywhere. And less driving (don’t make me state the obvious) is better for the environment. Ideally, companies based in these areas will support public-transit use by their employees through subsidized bus or rail passes (hint, hint).

If you’ve been a good boy or girl and read this column regularly, you should remember that a few weeks back we promoted the importance of site selection in green buildings. LEED supports projects that “channel development to urban areas with existing infrastructure, protect greenfields, and preserve habitat and natural resources,” while limiting sprawl. A building should be constructed or renovated on a previously developed site in a community with high density and within a half-mile of at least 10 basic services—such as a library, school or pharmacy—with pedestrian access to these services.

Being able to walk to nearby services and converse with people on the street sounds pretty good. As Martin Tuttle, vice president of New Faze Development, said, living in suburbia in a nondescript neighborhood, 35 miles from work, spending hours sitting in our cars is “not the prime of life,” which is why redevelopment of urban areas is so cool. Instead of buying into the preconceived American notion that newer and bigger is better, redevelopment looks at the value of what we already have—even if it means peeling back several layers to find it.

“That’s what I love about this job,” Tuttle said. “You take the idealism and try to match it with the real world. This area will be revitalized. There’s no turning back now.”

And while it may not be Mayberry, Del Paso Boulevard could surprise us, yet.