Before R Street Market Plaza development: Photo Essay

Vacant buildings line this stretch of R Street between 16th and 18th streets, poised to become R Street Market Plaza.

The city of Sacramento and Capitol Area Development Authority (CADA) are working on the R Street Corridor Project – an effort to turn a 27-block-long stretch of R Street into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.

A two-block section of R Street from 16th to 18th streets will hold the project’s centerpiece, the R Street Market Plaza. Elements of the historic rail corridor and industrial warehouse district have inspired its design, which is expected to be completed in early June.

The public project is intended to spur private development — creating more businesses, housing, services and jobs along the corridor. California state agencies now occupy some of R Street.

The project has been designed to increase R Street’s livability with a plaza that will be constructed to hold sidewalk cafes, festivals, farmers’ markets and other special events. 

Below are photos of this stretch of R Street before streetscape construction and redevelopment of the buildings begin. 

The Crystal Ice and Cold Storage facility built in 1920 is now a lime-green building at 16th and R streets. Crystal Ice was once the city’s primary ice supplier. Additions were made until 1950.

Developer Mark Friedman of Fulcrum Properties is developing plans for a section he has dubbed the "Ice Blocks." He plans to preserve the exterior of the oldest Crystal Ice building at 16th Street, which is a historic landmark. The development is expected to include retail, residential and office space.

A sign on an old Crystal Ice building reads, “JUST WHAT MIDTOWN HAS BEEN WAITING FOR.” The official address is 1812 17th St.

The old buildings are popular for professional photo shoots and hobbyists with cameras.

"This area is off the hook," said R.C., a state employee who lives two blocks away and asked that his last name not be used. "You just don’t see this anymore." 

In the mid-1850s, R Street contained tracks for the Sacramento Valley Railroad — the stateʼs first railway. Mainline railroad tracks will be kept in place to maintain R Street’s historic integrity and reflect its heritage.

The street later morphed into a warehouse district. Loading docks are still visible at warehouses that once helped form the areaʼs spine.

An empty lot sits on the north side of R Street between 16th and 17th streets. Plans call for the lot to be turned into a parking garage. A-1 Plating Co. and Tom and Toby’s Automotive Clinic once operated there.

A Sacramento Kings billboard was installed on 16th Street on a fence surrounding a vacant lot.

Local residents and state employees use the street to get to and from a Safeway grocery store and restaurants at R Street Marketplace, built by developer Paul Petrovich at 19th and R streets.

"The ants go back and forth from the sugar to the anthill – that’s what this is," said R.C., a state employee returning from the shopping center.

 The Orchard Supply Co. warehouse at 1731 17th St. 

With its metal awning, the warehouse at 1831 17th St. is known for great acoustics. Local musicians who play saxophones and trumpets can sometimes be spotted there. 

"The sound just ricochets off the walls," said local resident Ron Johnson, 67. 

Local resident Ron Johnson first lived in the area in the 1960s and returned after spending some years in the Bay Area.

R Street at the intersection with 17th Street, looking east toward R Street Marketplace.

Crystal Ice Co. building, 1800 18th St.

All the buildings in the two-block stretch are vacant. But space outside the buildings is used for parking.

A woman walks down an alley between 17th and 18th streets.

Graffiti has been painted on the vacant buildings. Much has been painted over, but not graffiti up on the roof of the tallest Crystal Ice Co. building at 16th and R streets.

One side of the Crystal Ice Cold and Storage building fronts an alley between 16th and 17th streets.

Construction on the $3.8 million plaza project could start as soon as spring or summer 2012. The city and CADA will apply for construction funding through the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. SACOG is expected to review the request in November. Streetscape upgrades began on R Street from 10th to 13th streets last fall.

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March 17, 2011 | 7:19 PM

This was really interesting, thanks for all “on the ground” photos, love it

March 17, 2011 | 9:02 PM

Why in God’s name does the city need to build a parking structure? There is a multistory parking complex less that a block away in that suburban monstrosity Benvenuti built that straddles R Street on 16th.

When is the city going to stop imposing suburban parking standards on its urban core? Doesn’t anyone in the Planning Dept or the City Council ever use mass transit… ever walk more than one block to a fast food outlet?

March 22, 2011 | 11:05 AM

Why? Because large scale commercial development won’t succeed without outsiders coming in, and transit doesn’t work for people outside of commuter hours. Maybe if they built more high-rise apartments and condos in Midtown/Downtown, there would be enough walking locals to support the commercial development. Yet those who do try to build housing in downtown/midtown run into furious opposition, often from the same dolts who oppose parking garages.

March 17, 2011 | 9:55 PM

Is that icky garage at R & 16th is a state lot? Not a fan of parking lots but as this area gets developed even with proximity to light rail, parking will be needed. Our transit infrastructure is so weak and the sad reality is people will not give up their cars. For residents, car storage is necessary. I live in Midtown and don’t drive much but have a car for the times I need one. Car share would eliminate some of the car storage need for residents but we’re not there yet. We do have good examples of parking structures wrapped by office, retail and even residential uses so the garages aren’t eyesores. Looking forward to seeing the CADA Warehouse and the Crystal Ice Plant brought back to life.

March 22, 2011 | 8:15 AM

And there we have it. Mass transit dreamers meet economic reality. The commerce needs parking to thrive.

March 18, 2011 | 12:19 PM

This was a great photo essay, Suzanne! I hope you do more stories like this.

March 18, 2011 | 12:19 PM

Pretty stupid to put a parking lot in such a key spot. In fact, last I heard it was going to be turned into a plaza?

March 18, 2011 | 2:53 PM

A-1 Plating was there for a long time …Wonder what kind of toxicity level the ground has after housing a facility that did chrome plating and aluminum anodizing for decades? I haven’t noticed any major clean up since the building was demolished. Maybe that lot is only fit of a parking structure.

March 18, 2011 | 7:21 PM

Not the same block–the plating works was between 17th and 18th on S.

March 21, 2011 | 9:11 AM

From the city’s most recent EIR for the market plaza project:

“Tom and Toby’s Automotive Clinic/Repairing, 1720 17th Street

This facility is out of business and the site is now a vacant lot between 16th and 17th Streets.
The site was identified on Sanborn Maps from 1964 to 1970 as an Automobile Repair. Sanborn
Maps were not available after 1970. The building can be seen in aerial photographs from 1952
through 1981. In the 1993 aerial photograph the entire site has been cleared (Blackburn
Consulting 2009).

A-1 Plating Company, 1721 16th Street

This facility is out of business and the site is now a vacant lot between 16th and 17th Streets.
The site was identified on Sanborn Maps from 1957 to 1970 as a Plating Shop and Automobile
Repair. Sanborn Maps were not available after 1970. The building can be seen in aerial
photographs from 1952 through 1981. In the 1993 aerial photograph the entire site has been
cleared.

Plating shops are a concern for surface soil contamination. Historically, plating operations were
prone to site contamination due to the movement of parts through the plating process in an
unenclosed system. Old shops often had trenches into which wastewater and waste solutions
were deposited. Potential contaminants include cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc
and cyanide (Blackburn Consulting 2009). ”

The location of A-1′s former building can be checked out using Google maps.

Article Author
March 21, 2011 | 12:53 PM

Okay–there was also a plating works on 18th and S Street until a couple years ago, when it was going to become another half-block condo project. The half-block was demolished and the project principals apparently ran out of money.

March 18, 2011 | 12:41 PM

Thanks Suzanne. Excellent photo essay. Perhaps now it’s time to hold a charette involving 2 or 3 hundred residents and businesses to scope out how Sacramento wants this area to be developed. You know, like we did for the Kay Street Mall. Perhaps Mr. Friedman would cut a check to fund this event. We certainly have the architectural smarts (Ron Vralakas, David Mogavero, Richard (Railyards) Rich, et. al. to lead the discussion. Not to mention public agencies, CADA (already deeply involved), RT, even SACOG.

March 18, 2011 | 7:16 PM

And maybe Mr. Friedman will hold it inside the Crystal Ice plant again–he held an event (and led a tour) through the building a couple of years ago which was a lot of fun!

March 18, 2011 | 12:46 PM

I lived in the three story condo’s across from Crystal Ice a few summers ago. R Street could be awesome if it brought the core of midtown towards a redone riverfront. I hope that they get some “mixed-use” building in there one day.

At R and 6th (?) I think, there is a wooden post on the corner that says “Southern Pacific”. The concrete around it has been replaced several times but it has been left intact, but there is no historical marker to inform curious citizens as to what it is. Any guesses? Was it the end-of-the-line? Accross the street from that is one of the cities oldest power poles, check it out it’s really neat looking.

March 18, 2011 | 7:21 PM

It’s on 8th Street. The wooden post was a railroad crossing sign, they were on every block with a big wooden “X” on top of the posts. The railroad went all the way to the waterfront–actually, the original Sacramento Valley Railroad started at the waterfront and ran up R Street before it left town and ran to Folsom (There is a market at 3rd and R Street, and the curved pedestrian bridge across I-5 was originally a railroad bridge.) The SVRR was bought out by Central Pacific, which became Southern Pacific, and in 1909 another railroad, Western Pacific, ran their own line down R Street in the alley between Q and R, where Light Rail runs now.

March 21, 2011 | 2:32 PM

Not sure what about this drew three thumbs down, but I’ve wondered about that very post. Thanks, Mr. Burg (and Isaac)!

March 22, 2011 | 10:12 AM

I was going to ask for your reply by name, Mr Burg, but I didn’t want to impose. Thanks for the great local history!

March 18, 2011 | 2:12 PM

Just a clarification to the essay. The lot at 16th and R is not designated for a parking garage. The lot is zoned office commercial and the land owner has always maintained that if something gets built there it will be an office building. Additionally, the timing to submit projects to SACOG has not been set. In the last Community Grant funding cycle, SACOG did review projects in the late fall but in other years its been in January and February.

March 21, 2011 | 9:17 AM

Perhaps the plans in the EIR are outdated:

“Discussion

The proposed project begins at 16th Street on the west end and ends at 18th Street on the east.
It is located within the boundaries of the City of Sacramento General Plan, the R Street Corridor
and the Central City Community Plan

Existing land uses immediately adjacent to the proposed R Street Market Plaza project consist
mainly of vacant buildings that are planned for redevelopment. A mixed use complex with
Safeway Market, restaurants, commercial shops and loft apartments is located at the east end
of the proposed project at the intersection of R and 18th streets. There is a vacant lot located
on the north side of R Street between 16th and 17th streets that is planned to be developed into
parking garage.”

Article Author
March 21, 2011 | 9:37 AM

Not outdated but an error in the EIR.

March 21, 2011 | 11:37 AM

Then it’s a clarification to the EIR and not the essay. Don’t place responsibility for the error on the writer.

March 21, 2011 | 2:51 PM

The essay did not state the source of the information. The purpose of my comment/clarification was to address the concerns and reactions to the information not to place responsibility of the error.

March 22, 2011 | 9:01 AM

“Mainline railroad tracks will be kept in place to maintain R Street’s historic integrity and reflect its heritage.” Now THAT is just silly, unless some kind of trolley will be running on them. Do they like to trip up bicyclists or something? Gee, if you want to keep the heritage of the neighborhood, why not keep it industrial?

March 22, 2011 | 8:24 AM

The neighborhood isn’t going to stop being industrial–there are still plenty of industrial and warehouse uses on R Street and that is unlikely to end soon. The tracks in the ground are already in the ground, so it’s not like they’re adding more tracks, and adding a trolley doesn’t make much sense because there wasn’t a trolley there before, and Light Rail is half a block away.

March 22, 2011 | 12:08 PM

The Tracks will be flush with the roadway and will not be usable. Bikes will not be tripped up while riding in this area. The tracks are meant to be aesthetic treatment and for historic reference to the rail history similar to what was done for the Historic Santa Barbara Rail Station.

March 22, 2011 | 9:58 AM

Looking forward to the iceblocks getting developed. Activation of R. St. has long been a CADA desire, rightfully so. Now if only the Capitol Lofts could find some traction, combined with the street scape improvements, we could see a complete corridor come to fruition.

Curmudgeon (aptly named) is right about the parking, for now, but he doesn’t have to be such a dick about it. As the neighborhood densifies, with projects like the Warren, R. Street Lofts, and the East End Gateway, the community will be able to support fresh commercial and plaza spaces. But until then, we have to bring people in via cars and parking. Also, there are many reasons to keep the railroad tracks from a planning perspective, including potential easement utilization and maybe even as an alternate route for the West Sacramento Trolley (it has been proposed).

March 22, 2011 | 11:16 AM

Sorry, but people driven by odd fixations that fly in the face of economic reality have to be called out.

March 22, 2011 | 8:24 PM

The tracks would no longer be usable as railroad tracks: as Todd mentioned, they will be flush with the roadway. If the West Sacramento streetcar project does get built, it would be far simpler to use the existing Light Rail infrastructure and right-of-way than to set up a separate streetcar alignment half a block away. The tracks and pavers do serve a practical function as well as aesthetic and historic functions: they serve as a sort of “traffic calming” to passing cars.

I don’t see parking as much of an issue in this neighborhood; there are plenty of state and business lots that are vacant at night that could be leased out to parking companies for evening parking, and some of those lots are also potential future development sites, like the one at 15th and Q.

March 22, 2011 | 9:58 AM

When I was interning with FUEL Creative Group, we had the opportunity to design the main archway and columns that will call out the ‘R Street Corrdior.’ Keep an eye out for these going up in the next six months or so.

June 28, 2011 | 8:33 PM

does anyone know what happened to the large picture of a mans face that used to be on the side of the building facing R street. ?? and how did it originally get there ?

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