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A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

May 9, 2008
Seeing the future of downtown Sacramento's Railyards

I have seen now what Sacramento's Railyards might eventually turn into. Here in Dallas, Ross Perot, Jr., son of the entertaining 1992 presidential candidate, is already doing it.
Years ago he bought 75 acres of industrial wastland next to downtown - anchored by the Union Pacific Railroad and a big electrical power plant - and crafted a vision of a Dallas version of New York City's prominent gathering place, Times Square.

Now it's called Victory Park. I imagine some of you have already seen it. You certainly have seen it on TV if you're a Kings fan. The anchor of Victory Park is American Airlines Center, home of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. Up close, it's as spectacular as it looks on TV.

Now I know the Kings arena no longer appears destined for the Railyards next to downtown Sacramento. But if it was, it might look a lot like Victory Park. The arena has spawned a cool "W" brand hotel with condos on top. (Silly me, wondering if W had something to do with our Texas president, and then hearing that it's a fashionable brand in, I think, New York and Chicago). Nearby were other residential buildings and a big office building under construction.

We members of the National Association of Real Estate Editors had a session on the 22nd floor, meeting the mayor of Dallas in an 11,000 square-foot condo unit looking out over the skyline. Price tag: $9 million. Very nice.

The mayor and a handful of others told us about the "new" Dallas, which aims to have a downtown second in the U.S. only to New York City. And that means more and more and still more housing. They have 30,000 residential units downtown right now, which frankly, for all the booming optimism and bravado about their civic future, didn't sound like that many. It might explain why for all the bulk of this downtown the streets still don't seem full of people. They make no bones about it here: this downtown has only recently become friendly toward housing.

Somebody asked the mayor if they had grocery stores downtown. Only one, he said, and it wasn't a chain. But the city is in talks with a chain grocer. That was kind of astounding, too, considering that Sacramento has a Safeway in Midtown - AND it has people living above it.

But I digress. Mostly, I realized how lucky it was to be taken on a tour to see that what Sacramento has long envisioned for its downtown Railyards is already real in another city. That Railyards is going to be quite a place some day because here in Dallas it already is.

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