Downtown up

New generation of downtown business owners, residents aim to take grid's future into their own hands

People lament over it in the coffee shops, point out its potential while walking K Street and argue over best solutions while drinking beer at Capitol Garage. It’s a question every downtown 20- and 30-something central-city dweller has asked: How do we bring downtown Sacramento to its full potential? How do we make it ours?

Now, a group of young business owners and residents are taking the matter into their own hands.

Turn Downtown Around, an organization started by local designer Demetri Gregorakis and Blackbird Kitchen & Bar chef and owner Carina Lampkin, held its first open forum on this past Monday, March 18, inside Downtown Plaza. The meeting was both an introduction to the people of downtown and also an opportunity for young, socially conscious members of the community to network and exchange ideas.

“We need to build the city today, and not in 2020,” said Lampkin to the gathering of around 75 community members. “That’s what Turn Downtown Around is.”

While in its nascent stage, TDA is already making things happen. Earlier this month, the group held its first fundraiser, “Beer Bust,” from which they managed to raise around $7,500. Lampkin says this money will be going to fund a mural project: Local artists will display their talents over the fencing that now blocks off what is essentially a hole in the ground on the west end of downtown.

The forum consisted of a panel including head of community news outlet Sacramento Press Jared Goyette, and the local historian William Burg, who presented a slideshow of downtown’s history.

One attendee asked the group about how to deal with news outlets that focus less on the community and more on the future of the Sacramento Kings.

“The short answer is: Be your own media,” said Goyette, a response that rang particularly true to this collective, which included members of Hacker Lab (a local technology cooperative) and social-media-fluent millennials.

Asked what he thought the unifying factor for turning downtown around, Burg said, “I don’t think we know what it is yet.” Then he considered. “It’s the energy.”

And the energy was certainly in the room on Monday when artist Danny Scheible stood up to speak at the close of the forum, urging everyone to get out and do their thing. Anything.

“I don’t care what it is,” said the artist, who makes artwork out of tape and calls his style “Tapigami.” “It could be just looking good. … It all makes a difference.”

At the moment, TDA hopes to gain its status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, as well as build a relationship with community members in order to form a unifying front in dealing with local politicians. The group’s next fundraiser is set for June, and it hopes to pull in $75,000 that time around to help improve the quality of life downtown.