Pilot alley projects move forward
The Midtown Business Association voted Wednesday night to kick in $20,000 toward nearly $400,000 in improvements for a prototype alley running from 17th to 18th streets between L Street and Capitol Avenue.
At the same time, a three-unit condo building has been under construction since February next to that alley. Construction workers have created a shell containing three condos and a garage.
Developer Jeremy Drucker is building the alley-front "Stitch" project as a three-year sales model for other property owners and prospective tenants. Facing Old Soul coffee roastery, the project sits at the back of a deep lot behind a house at 1717 Capitol Ave. The building is expected to be finished near the end of July.
Led by MBA President Aaron Zeff, a majority of board members agreed to provide $20,000 toward at least $132,000 in permeable paving stones for the alley. The money will come primarily from a surplus parking management fund, said MBA Executive Director Rob Kerth.
The city of Sacramento’s Department of Utilities has agreed to replace 80-year-old water and sewer lines — work estimated at $181,000. The City Council approved using $100,000 in community development block grant funds for permeable pavers. The total cost to install pavers may be higher, depending on bids, Drucker said.
The nonprofit Alley Activation Alliance, formed by the private committee spearheading an "alley activation" movement in Sacamento, is still seeking $30,000 for speciality items like planter boxes and construction of a masonry trash enclosure that will be built on a leased 10-foot by 20-foot parking space, said Alley Activation Committee Co-chair Julie Young.
The rest of the $391,230 budget is coming from in-kind and private donations,Young and Drucker said.
"We’re trying to put in infrastructure and encourage people to respond creatively to that," Young said.
Cities from San Francisco to Austin, Seattle, Portland and beyond have transformed old service streets into intimate, charismatic spots for smaller businesses and residential flats. For two years, several dozen people have been working as the Alley Activation Committee to initiate a similar movement in Sacramento.
The committee members have identified 41 Midtown alleys between I and N streets they see as having potential for improvements that would encourage alley-front business and residential development.
Before the vote, several MBA members asked where funding would come from for other alleys to be developed and for alley maintenance. Some were concerned businesses or the city would be expected to come up with the funding.
"We don’t want to look to the city for money" for other alleys to be improved, Young said. The committee will explore other options, such as private donations from foundations or corporations, or property-based improvement district funds, Young said.
The question of who would be responsible for maintenance hasn’t yet been answered, but maintenance should be minimal, she said.
"Ultimately, the alleys are still maintained by the city," she said.
The city will handle construction. Work to replace water and sewer lines is expected to begin in July. Surface improvements — installing permeable pavers if possible — would start in late summer. Resident’s water and sewer services should be shut off for no more than four hours at a time while connections are made, Drucker said.
A homeowner who lives several blocks away from the Stitch sales model has signed a contract for the second alley-front residential unit to be built on her deep lot. All three units must be pre-sold before construction would start, Drucker said.
Graphic provided by Jeremy Drucker. Photos by Suzanne Hurt, a staff reporter covering business and development for The Sacramento Press.