Raising the Barn

On the banks of the mighty Sacramento River, an instant architectural icon has sprouted from the earth, connecting the natural landscape of the riverfront to its modern neighbors ashore, all while making a bold statement about our region’s history and our new civic identity. Here’s how our newest urban landmark was born.

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When it opens this summer, the Barn will house a full-service restaurant and a counter-service cafe, and will welcome al fresco diners, festival-goers, farmers’ markets and charity events, framing a view of downtown and providing a grand gateway to the riparian wonderland of the riverbank—something that has long been missing from the rest of Sacramento’s urban landscape, where levees that were built when the river was considered nothing more than an industrial transportation system now block views and access.

“The Barn serves multiple different purposes,” says Friedman, “and one of them is as a community gathering space. We’re going to have lots of different programming, everything from movie nights when you’ll sit outside watching an old Western, to pizza [parties] by the river, to Sunday morning races.” At night, visitors can take in concerts under the shelter of the structure’s 80-foot-long wing and gather around fire pits with friends.

The swath of raw riverfront where the Barn is going up today has already hosted the TBD music and culture festival for the past two years, welcoming up to 30,000 visitors each time to see acts like Moby, Chromeo and Tears for Fears. The plan is for the space to continue to host such events, with the Barn serving as a hub for food and drinks, at least until ground is broken for neighboring projects.

As shown in this aerial diagram, a restaurant and cafe will anchor one end of the wing, and a yet-undetermined community space will fill the other.

For now, the Barn will stand as the emblematic centerpiece to Fulcrum’s share of The Bridge District. The company owns a little over half of the area’s acreage (and all of the parcels bordering the Barn), but has deeded much of that back to the city in the form of parks, roads and easements. That leaves approximately 40 acres for actual development, which includes the completed and fully occupied Park Moderns, an enclave of single-family residences in the mid-century modern style ranged around an oval park that the firm designed and developed and then deeded back to the city so that it would be a public amenity.

Who are the urban homesteaders who have bought into this as-yet somewhat isolated slice of urban paradise?

“Our answer is always people who self-identify with design,” says Jaycox. “That crosses all the market segments of real estate. People who want to live in the city, but have a need for a relationship to the outside. We have everyone from professors to young entrepreneurs to retirees to people who are very close to public policy for our region. The age range couldn’t be more diverse.”

The Barn’s curvilinear form was designed to provide up to 6,000 square feet of shade during sunny days.

The Bridge District’s master plan calls for its remaining acreage to feature ground-floor retail, offices and residential units for 9,000 new residents. Other developers have similar mixed-use proposals afoot in the surrounding area, some of which include other showpiece public spaces, such as local landscape architect Kimberly Garza’s whimsical plan for The Dune, an elevated “beach” overlooking the river, complete with sand and umbrellas.

In the meantime, the Barn serves as a bold statement that sets the tone and establishes a high bar of aesthetics and livability for a neighborhood that promises to be uniquely its own.

“What makes me really proud and excited about what’s happening in Sacramento right now is that we’ve really begun to define our own identity instead of trying to be like other places,” Friedman says. “I think what’s exciting is that we’ve figured out what is good about ourselves and have decided to be Sacramento.” S