K Street

Another hopeful—and the arena plan is reason for hope—article about it from the Sacramento News & Review.

An excerpt.

A man brandishing a high-powered water hose blasts away at K Street’s grime, cleaning the block in the same way wardens bathe prisoners in the movies. It’s dawn, and a hazy, straw-colored sunrise overwhelms the street’s urban canopy. In fact, the light startles, as if someone’s whipped back the curtain on this lifeless weekday morning. There is one other person on the strip, a man smoking while seated on a black metal bench near the 12th Street light-rail stop. Just him and the guy purging the mall, readying it for another day.

At this point in the typical story about downtown Sacramento’s K Street, one probably would deliver some kind of snarky punch line about how the water wash can’t mask the block’s lingering urine stench. And that’s fair—pee persists!—but lately, it also feels like a cheap shot.

These are new times for K Street.

Once the sun shines on K, it buzzes. Cars spin up and down the block. People actually eat out at the neighborhood’s restaurants, of which there are many new popular spots. And when the sun sets, there’s sexy night life, trendy pizza spots, karaoke bars. Plus Middle Eastern buffets, new painted murals and soon, possibly a new arena. The street’s even adopted a fresh, if mocked, nickname, “The Kay,” which was part of a recent marketing campaign by downtown’s business district.

This new K can draw a crowd. A younger, clubgoing, mermaid-watching bro contingent, but still, a crowd. It’s a huge transformation.

Sid Garcia-Heberger, who’s operated the Crest Theatre at 1013 K Street going on 27 years, says the atmosphere on the mall “is such a night-and-day change from what K Street was like even a few years ago.”

This has some people worried, though. They argue that the city’s emphasis on nightlife, hospitality and a new Kings home is but a higher-stakes version of the very mistakes that rendered K Street a dead zone for more than half a century.

William Burg, who’s written books about the street and Sacramento’s history, called the latest revitalization plan “exactly the same thing” the city has always done: a shopping, nightlife and entertainment scheme without the most critical element—housing, housing, housing.

“And I think it will continue to fail,” he said. He could be right: Downtown’s population was 50,000 in 1950, but today is only 28,000, he reminded.

Meanwhile, city and business leaders want to double down on K Street’s latest successes. They hope to take The Kay’s clay—plus a few hundred million—and sculpt a neighborhood that will thrive and survive for decades to come. A regional destination anchored by a new entertainment and sports complex at the Downtown Plaza site, and a 101 reasons to spend your hard-earned dollars downtown.

If it succeeds, leaders say K Street will be the city’s ultimate treasure. Failure, however, would be less than OK: If the plan stumbles, it will cost the city hundreds of millions in bad debt and generate unwieldy deficits.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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