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McClatchy-Tribune  02/14/2014 5:02 AM ET
West Sacramento housing project hopes to start expansion of area [The Sacramento Bee :: ]

Feb. 14--The project sits, like so much on the land hugging the west side of the Sacramento River, under construction. Workers swarm the site, pouring cement and smoothing tar amid the hum of heavy machinery.

Stephen Jaycox stood in the middle of it earlier this month, looking over renderings and watching the first phase of what will become The Park Moderns. The new development of more than 50 homes and about 200 apartments rising in West Sacramento's Bridge District is set for completion within the next two years.

City leaders hope it's the type of urban project that will appeal to young professionals; empty nesters and suburban dwellers who want to be closer to central city attractions and amenities; and Bay Area transplants seeking more affordable digs.

It's also the type of development West Sacramento is banking on to expand the region's definition of downtown Sacramento to include both sides of the river. While construction has yet to start on housing in the dormant Sacramento railyard just across the river, building in the Bridge District is now well underway.

"This is the reality of where development has shifted," said Jaycox, design director for Fulcrum, the Sacramento-based developer of Park Moderns.

Since Raley Field opened in 2000, River Cats fans have routinely grabbed a drink or dinner in Old Sacramento and downtown establishments, then walked across the bridge to enjoy a ballgame. With residential developments such as The Park Moderns and the eventual addition of restaurant offerings on their side of the river, West Sacramento leaders hope more foot traffic will flow in both directions across the Tower Bridge.

West Sacramento's Bridge District is a busy place after more than 20 years of blueprints and master plans to transform the once down-at-the-heels industrial area into a live-and-work riverfront downtown.

Out came a railroad spur line that bisected the district. Gone is the old freeway that once funneled cars in a rush through West Sacramento to and from the Tower Bridge. The city corralled $16.5 million from Bridge District property owners and its redevelopment account to move a cement plant to the Port of West Sacramento.

The city dedicated $52 million for public works improvements in the Bridge District, which include a new street grid, sewer lines, trenches for electric and cable connections and a lighted riverfront promenade. Nearly half of the funds came from Proposition 1C state housing bond money, while $11 million came from property assessments and another $11 million from redevelopment funds.

Now the area surrounding Raley Field is primed for development.

Buyers have purchased 10 of the initial 32 homes at Park Moderns. The first residents are expected to move in by June, with all 32 homes complete by early 2015, according to Jaycox.

Another part of the project, Habitat, is due to be completed in spring 2015 with 96 apartments, Jaycox said.

Fulcrum is run by Mark Friedman, the developer and part-owner of the Sacramento Kings who is leading the team's efforts to design the arena in Downtown Plaza across the river from the Bridge District. Fulcrum is the largest landowner in the Bridge District.

The two- and three-bedroom homes ring a small park that designers envision as a communal living room for the 32 houses facing it. The park was inspired by South Park in San Francisco, a European-style public space that is designed to be shared by the neighborhood. The apartments will be a mix of studio to two-bedroom units and Fulcrum may also experiment with "microapartments," spaces that have become more popular in cities such as tight-squeeze San Francisco.

Together with the 70-unit affordable Rivermark apartment complex and the Habitat project rising along the district's Garden Street, the block will "be the anchor for a lot of what's going on in the district," said West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

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