The Sacramento Railyards (or Railyard Specific Plan) is an urban infill project of approximately 244 acres (99 ha) at the western terminus of the First Transcontinental Railroad located within the City of Sacramento’s Central City community, between the downtown Central Business District and the River District, near the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers. The property is owned by Downtown Railyard Ventures, LLC. The Sacramento Railyards was master-planned by the Jerde Partnership firm. Construction will take 15 to 20 years with a projected build-out to last until the late 2020s.
The site is equivalent in size to the existing downtown central business district and holds significant historical and cultural importance to Sacramento. The project features the preservation and partial reuse of the "Central Shops" buildings originally used for railroad maintenance and the former Southern Pacific Sacramento Depot; now known as Sacramento Valley Station. One of the Central Shops will be refitted into a public marketplace.
Overall, the project is expected to include 12,000 housing units, 2,900,000 square feet (270,000 m2) of office uses, 1,900,000 square feet (180,000 m2) of retail, hotel, and other commercial uses, 41 acres (17 ha) of parks and open space, a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium for Sacramento Republic FC, a 1.3 million square foot, 17.8 acre Kaiser Permanente flagship medical center campus, and create 19,000 permanent jobs.
The first railroad in Sacramento as well as California was the Sacramento Valley Railroad finished in 1856 and engineered by Theodore Judah. Judah's efforts to realize a transcontinental railroad was transferred to the power of "The Big Four" investors, who created the Central Pacific Railroad. The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, when Central Pacific's line joined Union Pacific's at Promontory Summit. Sacramento's terminus was the primary departure station for the railroad until 1883.
Central Pacific merged with Southern Pacific in 1870, and the former's maintenance yards were expanded with the addition of the Southern Pacific shops. The shops were used for locomotive repairs, general maintenance and, occasionally, creation. The yards steadily expanded, becoming the biggest railroad facility west of the Mississippi River and employing approximately one-third of all Sacramento workers in the early decades of the 20th century.
Railroad usage in the United States gradually declined over the century, and by the at beginning the 21st century, railyard upkeep had become less economically viable and laid largely dormant. In 2003, developer Millennia Associates vied to purchase the southern 70 acres (28 ha) of the railyards, hoping to eventually obtain the entire railyard from Union Pacific. Millennia’s financial partner, Thomas Enterprises, eventually finalized the railyard purchase on 2006-12-29. In 2015, the 200-acre Sacramento Railyards property was sold to Downtown Railyard Ventures, LLC., with experienced local developer Larry Kelley and his partners, Denton Kelley, Jay Heckenlively, Frank Myers and Alan Hersh serving as the master development team for the project.
Environmental remediation on the site has occurred since the 1980s. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency have identified numerous soil and groundwater contaminants on and near the development area. The nearby Jibboom Junkyard was listed on the National Priorities List (NPL) and identified as containing metal contaminants in the soil. After remediation and NPL deletion in 1991, a 2007 review of the site assessed that while the contaminants still persist, their levels remain protective of human health concerns. Similar metal contaminants are found in the Sims Metal Recycling property in the project area. A 2007 Memorandum of understanding gives DTSC oversight over remediation procedures and ensures the site is remediated to target levels.
The redevelopment phasing has been allotted into five phases; the first phase, infrastructure building, is currently under construction.
The plan for the Railyards project is to expand the role of the Central City as Sacramento’s regional destination for employment; commerce; government; sports and entertainment; housing; and education, culture, and tourism and to create a transit‐oriented mixed‐use district as an integral extension of the Central Business District.
The Sacramento Railyards plan is to create a dynamic 24‐hour mixed‐use, urban environment that provides a range of complementary uses, including cultural, office, hospitality, sports and entertainment, retail, healthcare, educational, and open space; and a mixture of housing products, including affordable housing. The Railyards has been historically isolated from the City of Sacramento. The project developers now want to integrate the area by connecting the Railyards with Sacramento’s downtown office, retail, tourism, residential, and government centers, as well as Old Sacramento, the River District area, and the adjacent Alkali Flat neighborhood using pedestrian and bicycle connections, roadways, and public transportation routes.
The plan will transform the Railyards from an underutilized and environmentally contaminated industrial site into a transit‐ oriented, attractive, and nationally renowned mixed‐use urban environment.
By focusing on regional employment opportunities, cultural destinations, and high‐quality residential neighborhoods, the Railyards calls for improved land use efficiency and reduced GHG emissions through a healthy jobs‐housing balance; multi‐modal connectivity; urban centers with jobs, housing, shopping, services, and transit; and advanced green building practices. Implementation of this Plan will create a unique mixed‐use development consisting of regional destinations, commercial uses, office development, hotels, sports, entertainment and retail uses, with high‐density residential neighborhoods that provide opportunities to live and work in the Central City and are supported by urban parks and plazas.
The Central Shops District
The proposed Railyards plan includes five neighborhood districts, each with its own character, dominant land uses and regulations. The Central Shops District encompasses the area around the Historic Central Shops. The Central Shops District will spark the renaissance of downtown Sacramento and will become the epicenter of activity for the Railyards as they are transformed into a modern, urban village. The historic railyard central shops were once a place of industrial progress, where thousands of mechanics, craftsmen, and engineers spent long days building entire locomotives from the ground up. The history of these buildings will be preserved as the shops are reclaimed, repurposed, and adapted into the central gathering place of the Railyards.The Central Shops buildings will be adaptively reused with historic/cultural-themed uses, such as a performing arts theater, exhibit space, public marketplace, art galleries, clubs and other entertainment-supporting uses, and a relatively small amount of office and retail space. The historic Central Shops buildings will be a heritage tourism draw and inspiration for a mix of uses that will help to create a culturally‐vibrant, urban community. The Central Shops District will be a central gathering place where modern architectural buildings will complement the historical buildings. The Railyards Central Shops District will be adaptively reused in a way that preserves the historical significance and architecture of the brick buildings, and evolves it into a revolutionary new future.
The Central Shops District will offer unique retail and entertainment venues, as well as art and cultural experiences that are distinct to our region and city. Craft breweries, urban wineries, and local, artisanal restaurants will celebrate Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork culture. Collaborative office spaces will offer creative workspaces that meet the needs of today’s modern industry.
- Lillis, Ryan; Kasler, Dale (November 25, 2015). "Sacramento City Council to vote on term sheet for soccer stadium". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
- ""Railyards Redevelopment Plan - Draft Environmental Impact Report, Volume One" (PDF). (19.6 KB)", Redevelopment Agency of the City of Sacramento (January 2008). Retrieved on 2008-08-10.
- The Railyards: Facts. Thomas Enterprises, Inc. (2007). Retrieved on 2008-08-10.
- "UP Railyard Plant Development Plan Expected", Jerde Partnership (2003-01-17). Retrieved on 2008-08-14.
- "Thomas Enterprises buys downtown railyard", Sacramento Business Journal (2006-12-29). Retrieved on 2008-08-14.
- "Sacramento Railyards Sold to Experienced Local Development Team" (PDF). September 30, 2015.
- Superfund Site Progress Profile - Jibboom Junkyard. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved on 2008-09-30.
- ""Five-Year Review Report for Jibboom Junkyard" (PDF). (1.76 MB)", United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2007-09-28. Retrieved on 2008-09-30.
- "Proposed Railyards Specific Plan Draft" (PDF). June 10, 2016.
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- Official Sacramento Railyards project website
- City of Sacramento: Sacramento Railyards project website