By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

The Sacramento Valley Station in downtown Sacramento is the seventh busiest Amtrak station in the country. By Russell Stiger Jr., OBSERVER

The city of Sacramento hopes to put shovels in the ground by 2026 to turn the historic downtown Amtrak station into a sustainable transportation center.

The City Council approved the Sacramento Valley Station Area Plan last spring, which could attract pedestrians and transit users, and allow facilities to operate off 100% clean energy. 

Perkins and Will (P&W), the global architectural firm, is leading the project in partnership with Arup and Grimshaw Architects, EPS and Aim Consulting. The partners’ goal for the environmental hub could also offer opportunities for the Black community as well. Local ethnic chamber leaders say they will be paying attention to the project.

“It’s a transportation hub and it’s right downtown,” said Azizza Davis Goines, president and chief executive officer for the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce. “It has all the right ingredients. It just needs the right mix of businesses.”

With the plan’s execution date down the line, Goines said it would give her team plenty of time to explore possibilities before sitting down with Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently being quarantined.

“I’m going to give the mayor another week or two to heal before talking city business,” Goines said of the mayor’s medical condition and the Sacramento Valley Station Area Plan. “He’s feeling OK but he’s exhausted.” 

Goines also said that she wants the “excellence” and “presence of Black businesses” in the fold should there be a chance to land up proprietorships in an area that is currently under construction. The building of the new Sacramento Courthouse on H Street, will increase activities once it’s completed.

“All we need is support. It’s not that tough,” Goines said of putting sustainable Black businesses downtown, overall. “Right now, we just can’t scale up. That’s why you don’t see us in places like the airport or Downtown Commons. But all we need is support and the Black businesses have to want to get support.” 

Situated in the northwest corner of downtown and a short distance from Old Sacramento, the Sacramento Valley Station (SVS) is the premier rail station in Northern California and the seventh busiest Amtrak station in the country. About 1.5 million people use the city’s transportation hub each year.  

Opened in 1926, the City of Sacramento was able to purchase the station and surrounding grounds. It currently includes 25,000 square feet of mixed-use leasable space for offices, restaurants, and retail.

As downtown Sacramento continues to expand in population, the development of surrounding infill areas will lead to a promising destination for the community, a place to do business, and live.

The 28-acre transportation hub will also feature additional offices, restaurants, affordable housing, bike trails, and community gardens. The SVS plan is expected to complement the connection of trains, regional and local buses, light rail, and micro-transportation such as Uber, Lyft, and taxis. 

Goines said she does not have all the details of how the plan will be laid out but did say if the city of Sacramento is involved in the plan, it could possibly open doors for diverse businesses if it’s a public-private partnership instead of a private venture. 

The plan for 401 I Street has already earned the Living Community Challenge Vision Plan Certification for innovation. Sacramento is the first city globally to receive such honors. 

“The primary goals of this initial phase were to catalyze growth in downtown Sacramento with a walkable, livable district and develop a robust network of alternative modes, eliminating on-site parking demand for transit users and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” P&W said in a written statement. 

In June 2019, the Sacramento Valley Station renovation received a boost when U.S. Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui (D-Sacramento) announced that Sacramento would receive $15 million to rehabilitate the facility from a TIGER 2012 discretionary grant released by the Department of Transportations’ (DOT).

Former Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn was also responsible for ensuring funds for the train station during his tenure.

“Complete renovation of the historic depot offers an unprecedented opportunity to foster transit-orientated development, and enhance sustainability and transportation safety,” Rep. Matsui said in the summer of 2012.  “This grant allows the city to preserve one of our most iconic and historic buildings, results in significant benefits for passengers, and puts us one step closer towards securing Sacramento as a modern transit center for the region.”