Designs Within Reach 2014

Thanks to some big thinkers and talented designers, our region’s architectural profile is poised to rise in the next few years, both literally and figuratively. Here’s a preview of some of our faves.

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The Metropolitan

Estimated Groundbreaking: 2015

If built, John Saca’s planned 41-story condo and hotel tower would be the tallest building in Sacramento.



When the Kings’ new arena opens its doors in 2016, there’s little doubt thousands of visitors will find their way downtown to fill the seats. But most will head back out to the suburbs to find their beds since the River City’s urban core still remains more a place to visit than live.

Developer John Saca is hoping to help change that with the revival of his long-stalled, high-end condo and hotel project dubbed The Metropolitan that would revitalize J Street between 10th and 11th, a neglected block currently cluttered with shuttered storefronts and former city buildings.

Saca first conceived the project in 2005, combining a 190-room four-star (or higher) hotel with an equal number of luxury condos. But his main focus at the time was his hyper-ambitious plan to build two 53-story towers on Capitol Mall that would have been the tallest residential structures on the West Coast. Those plans included an InterContinental hotel, along with top-shelf retailers and restaurants. About 2,000 concrete piles were pounded into the ground before the housing crisis and economy killed the project.

Saca, however, still hopes to see The Metropolitan through. As of press time in mid-May, his family-owned company was on track to close escrow on the final parcel needed for the building’s footprint. While the developer is cautious about the timeline for breaking ground, he’s also confident it will happen—in 2015, he predicts, if the market continues to improve—and believes that high-density housing is the key to growth in the central city. “I think projects like this are as important as the arena,” he says. “The reality is we need residential downtown.”

If built, The Metropolitan promises to be the River City’s tallest building at 435 feet and 41 stories—12 feet higher than the Wells Fargo tower—with retail space on the ground floor. Designed by San Francisco-based Kwan Henmi Architecture & Planning, whose projects include Bay Area high-rises like the Soma Grand and The Paramount, it would incorporate modern interior elements into a soaring structure that plays off the traditional feel of the surroundings without being a “duplication of historical buildings,” says Denis Henmi, president of Kwan Henmi.

“Our initial design concept was a very contemporary building,” he explains. “And then as we went through the design process, we revised the base of the building to reflect the architectural style of the area, especially the new City Hall.” The changes included using more traditional materials like brick and stone and picking up on the color palette of nearby structures. “We took out a lot of the glass and added more punched openings to reflect the window pattern of some of the buildings in the area,” he adds.

What remained, however, was the concept of a luxury option for living that included the amenities of a hotel for homeowners, such as 24-hour room service, a spa and valet parking to name a few. (While no hotel partner has committed, Saca says he’s currently engaged in talks with several blue-chip brands). The condos would range in size from 750 square feet to penthouses that could top 5,000 (and cost upwards of $600 per square foot).

If the economic clouds continue to part, The Metropolitan could be one of the first residential towers to rise in a post-recession Sacramento. And the man who once promised the city’s tallest structure may finally be able to rise to the occasion himself.

NEXT: The museum positioned to be a new creative nexus at UC Davis.