Sac State alumni reflect on their hometown's "renaissance"

"It paves a positive course for our city. It opens up opportunity for increased vitality and life in our downtown area."
—Pat Fong Kushida '85 (Business Administration) President and CEO, Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce

Online extra: See our slideshow on the factors fueling the "renaissance"


rom a farm-to-fork movement that’s caught the eye of the world to a downtown burgeoning with projects that include an arena for the Sacramento Kings and a complete overhaul of the railyard, Sacramento is a region on the rise.

“It is a really exciting time for the city and the area,” says Bill Mueller ’90 (Communication Studies and Government), CEO of Valley Vision, a nonprofit regional research and consensus-building group. “We’re seeing new buildings like the new arena and the railyard project. And we’re seeing a growth in the creative class—designers, artists and entrepreneurs.”

Momentum, fueled by boom in dining, entertainment, shopping and living options, is shaping Sacramento’s image as a destination city.

Nearly 70 new businesses have launched or relocated downtown during the last three years and in the next 10 years the city expects to add more than 10,000 housing units. The combined economic impact of the downtown arena and adjacent development is expected to generate 4,000 jobs and attract more than 1.6 million new visitors.

“Sacramento has always had a great quality of life and now we are starting to see people appreciating the local amenities, says Michael Ault ’92 (Communication Studies), executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. “It’s beginning to be really defined by a strong urban center, when not long ago people just came downtown to work.

“We’re building a tourism economy with a convention business that competes on a national level. Plus we’re offering real housing options where people can live and be part of an urban experience.”

Part of the plan

Our alumni experts say what we’re seeing is not a sudden turn of events.

“The Renaissance has been coming for a while,” says Peter Tateishi ’02 (Government), president and CEO of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “But it is really coming to life with opportunities for growth like the Golden 1 Center. Plans for the railyard have been around for a decade but now there’s finally a catalyst with Kaiser (Permanente Hospital) coming in and the Sacramento Republic (soccer team) stadium.”

Mueller adds, “Business leaders have been setting the stage for the last 15 to 20 years. But now we are seeing the impact of decisions made over time. Well-laid plans for urban core are starting to bear fruit.”

Sacramento’s support for the downtown arena district represents a “historic triumph” for the city, says Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Pat Fong Kushida ’85 (Business Administration). “It paves a positive course for our city. It opens up opportunity for increased vitality and life in our downtown area.”

But it goes beyond buildings.

Making of a marketplace

Mueller notes that the country has moved from a “consumer” economy to a “creative” economy, marking a return of the skills of creating and designing products and services and opening the door for start-ups and other entrepreneurial endeavors. In fact, researchers found that the size of the creative class positively impacts growth in a region, the number of new opened establishments and the expansion of existing establishments.

“Demand for an urban core is feeding investment in a craft culture which creates a different vibe,” Tateishi says. “People want to invest in opportunities and there is a lot of excitement in the possibilities.”

One of the largest investors in the downtown is Kaiser Permanente, which plans to put a new hospital in the railyard, open a new medical office on J Street, and operate a Sports Medicine Center in the Golden 1 Center arena for members, the community and Sacramento Kings players.

“We are proud to be part of the revitalization of downtown Sacramento,” says Sandy Sharon ’87 (Business Administration), ’96 MBA, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento. “Kaiser Permanente has been part of this community for more than 50 years, and we are excited that our presence will boost the economic health of downtown by bringing thousands of physicians, employees, members and visitors who will eat, shop and play downtown.”

Ernesto Delgado ’98 (Graphic Design) has a front row seat for the renaissance. The owner of Tequila Museo Mayahuel on the K Street Mall will open another restaurant on Cesar Chavez Plaza which will emphasize Sacramento’s “farm-to-fork” philosophy.

“So much work has been done in the past and it’s finally all come together to ignite this renaissance that we are having,” Delgado says.

“Though my block has been thriving, now other things are happening—more housing, more transportation, more solutions. I believe we are going to be a great city. We’re ready.”

Mueller adds, “It’s a very rare opportunity. We have a chance to remake the whole city. We are setting the stage, designing Sacramento so it satisfies what we need.”

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