Development planned at historic Sacramento rail yard

Almost one hundred and forty years after construction began on the transcontinental railroad in Sacramento, Calif., work on the site will begin again as developers replace the rusting rail yard with new development in what is being called the largest “infill” project in the United States.

A new plan was recently accepted by Sacramento city officials to transform the 240-acre, abandoned rail yard into “entertainment retail” facilities, with 3,000 homes and acres of shops and restaurants. Plans could even include a new arena for the National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings. Construction is expected to begin in 2006 and be completed by 2016.

The developers of the project, Venice-based Jerde Partnership and Millennia Associates, are known for their work on Minnesota’s Mall of America and the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

“What we will be building doesn’t exist today in Sacramento,” Jon Jerde, owner of Jerde Partnership, told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re introducing a very vibrant real-life urban core for the capital.”

Apparently the idea of filling in the rail yard with new development is not a new one. Salt Lake City recently began a smaller rail yard project called the Gateway.

The Sacramento site, which opened in 1867, was used to build thousands of cars and locomotives for the transcontinental railroad. The site was closed in 1999. Construction won’t completely demolish the old, historic rail yard. Plans include a $25 million expansion of the existing California State Railroad Museum, which attracts 500,000 visitors annually.

One of the unusual elements of the design to preserve parts of the site include a gradually sloping shopping avenue that will carry walkers above the working Union Pacific and Amtrak railroad tracks. Construction of a large transit station is included in the plans.