Preservationists Win Time on Cap Tower

Jacques Overhoff created this scultpural wall, part of the important modern landscape designed by Lawrence Halprin. Photos by Dave Weinstein

Fans of a well-designed modern neighborhood in downtown Sacramento have won a round, convincing city officials to take a closer, slower look at plans to demolish Capitol Towers.

The plan to replace the low-rise apartments, built from 1959 to 1964, with the high-rise “Sacramento Commons” had been given a city fast track review because it promised to be a transit-oriented development. But because of neighborhood opposition, and opposition from the group Sacramento Modern, now it will receive more thorough review, with the requirement that an environmental impact review be prepared.

Sacramento Modern also has nominated the site to the National Register of Historic Places, “as a well-planned and well-designed example of urban redevelopment housing,” the group wrote, in a synopsis of its application.

“Not only does its pedestrian-oriented design combine low-rise and high-rise buildings, integrated landscape features, parking at the periphery, and amenities for its residents, the site also maintains a strong urban presence while balancing privacy and community for its residents,” the text goes on.

“In addition, it was the first redevelopment project for many of its talented design team that included Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons, Edward Larrabee Barnes, DeMars & Reay and Lawrence Halprin. Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons and Lawrence Halprin in particular would go on to design several more significant urban redevelopment projects in the Bay Area and around the country.”

The low-rise apartments, artfully arranged in a garden-like setting, would all be demolished under the developer's plan.

The plan for Sacramento Towers would redo the current 15-story tower, tear down 206 garden apartments and destroy the garden-like feeling of the landscape, which is open to the public. The project would build two high-rises of 22 stories each, several seven-story mid-rises including one with affordable housing, another 22-story tower with condos or hotel rooms, retail spaces and more.

A Facebook page is making the case for the site’s preservation.

The Sacramento Bee has weighed in, asking, “Is Sacramento Commons proposal the right project in the right place?”

“… foes of the project ask a fundamental question: Why tear up an established residential community when downtown has vacant holes in the ground begging for development?”

“In early artist renderings, the towers look straight out of Orange County,” the editorial said. “It would be nice if they reflected Sacramento.”

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