The Railyards Has a Role to Play in Sacramento’s Riverfront Revival

The Railyards Has a Role to Play in Sacramento’s Riverfront Revival

July 3, 2017 | By The Railyards


The waterfront has always been integral to Sacramento. The city was founded at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers and named after the former. The Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento want to reclaim the riverfront and create one of the nation’s finest urban waterfronts.

“The Sacramento Riverfront is positioned to become the next economic driver for the region.” - Urban Land Institute, Sacramento

In 2003, the Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento came together to create the Sacramento Riverfront Master Plan. The Riverfront Master Plan was the result of intense collaboration and interaction between both communities and the first plan to treat both sides of the river comprehensively.

The riverfront plan is getting a fresh look and city officials believe now is the time to put it into action. A ULI Sacramento workshop was held in March 2017 to review the riverfront master plan, hear presentations from four cities who’ve had exceptional success with waterfront redevelopment, and to address key areas of focus for activating Sacramento’s riverfront.

While the 2003 plan is in need of some updates, here are some highlights, concepts, and themes that will continue to guide Sacramento’s riverfront revival.

The Guiding Principles of Sacramento’s Riverfront Plan

The communities of Sacramento and West Sacramento identified four guiding principles for the riverfront plan that are unchanged today.

  1. Creating riverfront neighborhoods and districts
  2. Establishing a web of connectivity
  3. Enhancing the green backbone of the community
  4. Creating places for celebration

How The Railyards Fits in with Sacramento’s Riverfront Revival

The Railyards has a big role to play in Sacramento’s vision for a riverfront revival, which includes vibrant urban neighborhoods and high-quality public riverfront space for all of Sacramento to enjoy.

Creating Riverfront Neighborhoods and Districts

The Sacramento Riverfront is surrounded by a variety of mixed-use districts and neighborhoods; some established and some planned. The riverfront plan aims to integrate these distinct areas into one larger riverfront district. The riverfront plan calls for a mix of residential, commercial, and office uses that create vibrant, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods where people live, dine, work, play, and connect with their neighbors and the Sacramento River.

The Railyards development is one of these riverfront neighborhoods and shares a similar vision for a vibrant, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood.

The Railyards plan includes the following for the 244+ acre development:

  • 6,000 - 10,000 proposed residential units
  • 500,000 - 700,000 sq ft proposed retail space
  • 5M sq ft proposed office space
  • 175,000 sq ft museum
  • 900,000 Kaiser Permanente hospital
  • Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium
  • 1,000 room hotel
  • 30+ acres of open green space

The Railyards isn’t the only development project that is in sync with a vision of a revitalized urban core for Sacramento.

Other riverfront neighborhoods, districts, and projects are planned or underway with this same model in mind, including:

If all of these riverfront areas continue to move forward with a vision for thriving, mixed-use urban environments, the guiding principle for the riverfront plan will certainly be met.

Establishing a Web of Connectivity

The success of Sacramento’s riverfront plan lies in the ability of each of these individual neighborhoods and districts to integrate into one riverfront area. The master plan seeks to establish and strengthen connectivity through improved public open space, pedestrian and bicycle circulation, and transportation systems.

The 2003 riverfront plan identified Interstate-5 as a major barrier separating downtown Sacramento from the river. In 2016, the I-5 Riverfront Reconnection Project was completed, enhancing connections to the riverfront, Old Sacramento, Crocker Art Museum, and Capitol Mall. The improvements were made to improve circulation and access to some of Sacramento’s most popular destinations.

In June, 2017, Sacramento passed a property tax to help fund and maintain a streetcar system, with stops near the Golden 1 Center, state capitol, and Sacramento Valley Station adjacent to The Railyards. The Sacramento Valley Station has been undergoing a renovation with the goal of transforming the station itself and its 36-acre site into an intermodal transit hub that will connect people throughout the Sacramento area by train, bus, streetcar, bike, and more.

Enhancing the Green Backbone of the Community

The most crucial element of the riverfront master plan lies in the public open space along the river itself. If the riverfront areas can be easy to access, safe, and enjoyable, it will provide opportunities for walking, jogging, cycling, boating, fishing, scenic overlooks, and areas for picnics and play.

On the West Sacramento side of the river, the plan proposes a contiguous ribbon of public open space connecting Discover Park to Miller Park. On the Sacramento bank, opportunities for expanded public space are found at the Jibboom Street site, park areas near The Docks, and at The Railyards. The Railyards site plans include 33-acres of open public spaces, including Riverfront Park with public riverfront access. View The Railyards Open Space Plan.

The riverfront plan prioritizes ecological enhancement of the riverfront environment and recommends an ecological approach to flood protection, stormwater management, habitat enrichment, and conservation of resources to enhance the long-term value of both public and private space along the river.

Creating Places for Celebration

When the communities of West Sacramento and Sacramento came together to create the riverfront master plan in 2003, there was an emphatic desire expressed for the riverfront to be a place where Sacramento could come together to celebrate.

“The riverfront must offer places and opportunities for celebration throughout the year, from small informal gatherings to large festivals and parades.” Sacramento Riverfront Master Plan

On the West Sacramento bank, the Bridge District (TBD) has completed work on The Barn, an indoor/outdoor events venue on West Sacramento’s waterfront.

On the Sacramento bank of the river, there will be no shortage of places for residents and visitors to come out and celebrate in The Railyards.

The Railyards will be a unique Sacramento neighborhood with strong ties to Sacramento’s historical past. The Railyards’ Central Shops were once the largest train manufacturing and maintenance facilities in the US. As The Railyards are developed, great care is being taken to preserve its historic significance. A museum is also planned for the development, and Sacramento residents have been outspoken in their desire to see public markets and other places to come together in The Railyards, as well. As a neighborhood with cultural significance to a museum, open spaces, and even a proposed MLS stadium, The Railyards is a riverfront neighborhood that will offer plenty of opportunities for Sacramento to come out and celebrate.

Sacramento’s Riverfront Master Plan may have been created over a decade ago, but a renewed interest in riverfront revival has the city talking about the waterfront again. As one of Sacramento’s riverfront neighborhoods and districts, The Railyards finds itself in a position to play a big role in a future where the city comes back to the its roots; back to the river.

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