Folsom Project Continues
by, April 9th, 2011 at 10:59 PM (545 Views)
Historic Folsom Station project is slowly coming together
- from http://www.sacbee.com
by Carlos Alcalá
firstname.lastname@example.org Published: Thursday, Apr. 7, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
In recent years, Folsom has seen development of river crossings, a light-rail extension, a new high school, a regional performing arts center and shopping venues galore.
Despite that passel of projects, Patrick Maxfield is most excited about what is still largely a hole in the middle of Old Folsom.
"I think what's going on there is the best thing that's ever happened, maybe to the entire town," said Maxfield, president of the Folsom Historical Society and a Sacramento County planning commissioner.
What's going on – finally – is construction work for what is known as the Railroad Block, or Historic Folsom Station.
The project area is bounded by Wool, Reading, Leidesdorff and Sutter streets.
Ultimately, it is to feature an open stage, farmers markets, railroad-oriented historical exhibits – including a working turntable that can take rail cars – and four buildings with residential, office, retail and restaurant spaces.
It's an innovative public space for Folsom – brand new, urban in flavor, but with a historic bent.
"The only negative," Maxfield said, "is that it's taken so long."
A 2007 story in The Bee about the long-anticipated project included a sentence that began, "If construction starts next year as planned …"
It did start – with a $14 million city-built parking structure and some soil work to make a pad for a private development.
And then it seemed to stop, until last week.
Although the quiescent period is roughly the same as the general economic development slump, those involved in Historic Folsom Station say the tanking economy was not the reason.
"The time schedule for this is not driven by the economy," said City Manager Kerry Miller, who likes to refer to the Old Folsom area as a jewel in need of polishing.
"It just takes a long time," he said.
The city already had funding for the $6 million plaza project – as the city's part of the project is known – but a streetscape plan for the historic area had to be finished first.
Some of that project sparked controversy.
Among the issues was a line of trees in a Sutter Street median. They were considered historic to most of the city's 66,000 residents, Miller said.
A few knew better.
Those are people who might have been here in the 1960s, when the trees were first planted and the population was less than one-tenth of today's. The trees came down a year ago.
Those kinds of discussions slowed development.
"There was a stronger issue in making sure it was done right than done soon," said Rich Lorenz, Folsom's public works director.
The streetscape work is in its final phase, concluding with a celebration May 7.
The city's plaza work began last week.
Among the first steps is an allotted 60 days of archaeological work, to preserve items still in the soil from the 1800s.
The steps and foundation of the old Perkins Building were visible amid the dirt. The building would have been associated with the rail line that ran into the area back then.
Maxfield hopes the dig produces artifacts for the Folsom History Museum across Sutter Street.
What excites Maxfield and others most, though, is an anticipated synergy between the public spaces the city is creating and the four privately held buildings planned by Bernau Development Corp.
"I see it as livening up the area," he said. "It's going to be an attraction."
The first building, the $11 million Granite House, will include ground floor retail and 30 loft units that will be sold, not leased.
Jeremy Bernau hopes to start the first building this year.
The other three buildings will come in the following three or four years.
Because the economy has been bad, the delays in the city work have turned out to be fortuitous, Bernau and Miller said.
Now that the economy may be on the upswing, the project is more feasible, though there are still hurdles.
"Construction financing on new building is extremely difficult," Bernau said.
He'll have to turn existing deposits into contracts before getting financing.
If all goes as planned – yes, you've heard that before – Granite House and the plaza will be in place within a year.
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