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They brought Sacramento the Citizen Hotel and its restaurant, Grange.
Now that same team is proposing an even more ambitious downtown project. Calling themselves the Sacramento Alliance Team, the partners behind the Citizen Hotel are seeking Sacramento City Council approval to redevelop the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street Mall.
Two weeks before a council vote on the matter, they held an open meeting on the plan's centerpiece: a 35,000-square-foot public market, tentatively called the California Boqueria, that would showcase the state's food and wine at the corner of Eighth and K streets.
Two of the partners, Rubicon Partners co-founder Kipp Blewett and Grange Executive Chef Michael Tuohy, encouraged about 120 people at the meeting to sign an online petition, e-mail the council and tell their friends about the project.
"What we really need is your support to move forward with this," Tuohy said at a Citizen Hotel reception featuring California wine, artisan cheeses and local produce. "It's about telling the city of Sacramento that this is very important and this is what we need and this is what you want."
Four teams — including the Sacramento Alliance Team — answered the city's request for proposals to redevelop the troubled K Street Mall blocks and submitted ideas in March. Last month, a selection committee created by the city recommended two other teams to develop those blocks. Those teams, led by developers David Taylor and Cyrus Youssefi, were also endorsed earlier this month by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership board, of which Blewett is president.
The proposal by Blewett's team was bigger and more complicated to finance, and may just need to be analyzed further, said Project Director J-E Paino of Rubicon Partners.
"We didn't present anything that we think is pie in the sky and that we can't deliver," he added.
The partners chose to anchor their proposal with a food and agricultural complex because they believe it could kick-start downtown's revitalization — bringing 1 million annual visitors to Sacramento, the largest city in the Central Valley and the center of the country's largest agricultural economy, they said.
"People come here for food and wine, as well as scenery," Tuohy said. "We have the opportunity to write our own script about what is agri-tourism, California-style."
The roughly $30 million Boqueria would include a 25,000-square-foot ground floor with a farmers' market that would tentatively operate from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily and open onto K Street via large, rolling doors; a wine-tasting room; an Italian coffee bar; eight food carts; exhibit space and an academic demo restaurant. A 10,000-square-foot mezzanine would include a kitchen theater, deli and more exhibit space.
The proposal was developed to meet the city's request for something "catalyic," which could entertain and bring people from the suburbs, while also turning the city's negative image as a "dusty cow town" into a positive image as the center of the farm-to-plate movement, Blewett said.
"What we came up with is the concept of healthy lifestyle ... centered around food and wine," he said.
Other partners include Pete Thompson of Rubicon, Steve Eggert and Pete Geremia of St. Anton Partners, and Dan Corfee and Craig Zarro of Preferred Capital Advisors.
The Boqueria is proposed to be built on currently vacant city-owned land and owned by a public/private cooperative. Construction would be financed by federal and state money, as well as substantial investment from California farmers and landowners, one of the wealthiest groups in the state, Paino said.
The structure could be finished by 2013. The team also proposed an office building, from 150,000 to 300,000 square feet, for agricultural-oriented tenants such as produce associations and statewide groups. The building, called the California World Food and Agriculture Center, could be built across the alley at Eighth and L streets, or be attached to the Boqueria following negotiations with the owners of two other buildings on K Street, he said.
The proposal's first phase in the 700 block calls for 213 alley-facing artist live/work units that would cost $1,000 a month for 1,200 square feet and 60,000 square feet of retail, including a brewery and blues bar. Work could begin immediately and be finished by late 2012 or early 2013. Financing would include the city's $20 million land donation and $20 million in redevelopment bond money, Paino said.
The second-phase office building would be finished a year later. A hotel has also been proposed for a third phase, but that would be put off until the economy improves, he added.
People at the meeting included foodies, farm and tourism representatives, city planners and UC Davis food science representatives.
A food and wine center collecting the best of the region and the state in one place would help California farmers, said Dan Best, who organizes most of Sacramento's farmers' markets.
"This is the center of the garden of Eden of food production," he said. "Why don't we have a center that showcases that?"