Back in April, hundreds of people – and just about all of Sacramento’s movers and shakers – gathered just north of downtown for a huge Railyards groundbreaking ceremony. There was no shortage of excitement about plans for retail, office space, apartments, condos and museums. Listen, for example, to what Mayor Kevin Johnson said that day:
Johnson in April: “What major downtown anywhere in the country can double its size with one big project? We need to recognize the opportunity we have before us. And right now, I think what’s most pressing is dollars flowing so we can put people to work.”
But those dollars never really flowed. California’s budget crisis froze the $47 million in voter-approved state bond funds the Railyards was counting on. By mid-summer, not a single check had actually arrived. Suheil Totah with developer Thomas Enterprises says that changed everything.
Totah: “We were pretty confident we’d be able to proceed without any suspension. But unfortunately, we had to suspend construction.”
That prompted fears from city officials that the Railyards might lose out on millions in federal stimulus funds if the project missed its deadlines. But the state’s first check just arrived this week – and now, says Mayor Johnson, it’s full speed ahead.
Johnson this week: “I think we’re over the hump at this point, yes. I was worried about it, but I feel a little better.”
When crews resume in a few weeks, they’ll be working on a new bridge at Fifth Street and cleaning up toxic materials like lead and asbestos left over at two old railroad buildings. Developer Suheil Totah says the now-empty Railyards property will get pretty busy.
Totah: “We’ll do as much as we can this construction season, and start up again beginning of the year as weather allows.”
In fact, there are several more projects planned for the Railyards in the next year or so, including Regional Transit’s new light rail expansion. Work on actual buildings is still a couple of years away.