Highlights from the 2024 ULI Technical Advisory Panel’s Recommendations for Downtown Sacramento

The Downtown Sacramento Partnership (DSP) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) recently convened a Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) of distinguished third-party analysts from around the country to analyze and recommend growth opportunities for downtown Sacramento. The TAP’s recommendations were made public this month. As a member of ULI Sacramento’s Executive Committee, I believe in downtown Sacramento’s potential and the power of the built environment to transform the community. In case you missed it, I wanted to share a few highlights of the TAP’s findings and recommendations with the hope that its vision for downtown Sacramento will inspire us in the commercial real estate sector to embrace the opportunities ahead.

As background, ULI often participates in TAPs in partnership with DSP and local jurisdictions, sharing its deep bench of resources and talent for the betterment of the region.  For example, a few decades ago, ULI provided insights and feedback regarding the redevelopment of the Broadway corridor.  Many of these recommendations are now coming to fruition, as this historic area modernizes and attracts new businesses and opportunities for the community.

The most recent TAP identified core elements of downtown as being critical to the future success of the broader downtown neighborhood, in what the report branded the “Capital Destination District.” The TAP set forth the following vision and strategic framework for the Capital Destination District:

Play: The TAP stressed the need to create more open, green, gathering spaces. Its recommendations:

  • Maintain a clean, safe downtown through public-private partnership and effective leadership.
  • Amplify arts and entertainment offerings to unlock additional value and investment potential, draw people in from the suburbs, and promote downtown living.
  • Activate Capitol Mall as a greenway that connects the waterfront, museums, offices, entertainment, and retail, and serves as an enjoyable green event space in and of itself.

Live: The TAP advocated that residential development is key for driving lively streets, humming offices, and thriving neighborhood businesses. Its recommendation:

  • Build affordable and diverse residential projects. Residents add vitality to the environment, support retail businesses, and keep offices relevant. Data illuminated that the closer the office is to home, the greater chance the office will be used, and the closer one works to home, the more likely one will support retail offerings around the home and the office pre- and post-work.

Engage the Waterfront: The TAP suggested that re-stitching the river to downtown would not only activate an underutilized open space, but also fold this natural amenity into downtown’s appeal. How?

  • Improve pedestrian access to the river from K Street and Capitol Mall.
  • Create safe, accessible, and attractive trails and walkways across, along, and over the river.
  • Capitalize on the opportunity to develop visually appealing green public improvements.

Attract academic, research, and tech-focused uses: The TAP emphasized developing academic research hubs and university centers for student life on K street to drive innovation and attract emerging talent.

  • Attract newer companies with affordable office rents in vacant spaces on transit-rich K Street.
  • Partner with the UC system and Sacramento State’s policy-rich educational specialties in food and agriculture. By situating academic uses closer to downtown, this sector can grow and expand higher wage jobs, shape Sacramento’s brand and identity, and create unique reuse potential for vacant office buildings.

Further reading: The TAP identified key sites for the development of additional cultural and arts destinations to enhance placemaking downtown. I encourage you to check out the full TAP report here.