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Work on a pilot alley project may begin next year after $100,000 in community development money has become available, Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn said Wednesday.
The money is coming from unused federal community development block grant (CDBG) funds leftover from a street lighting program in North Sacramento's Ben Ali neighborhood.
Like most lighting projects, this one came in way under budget, enabling some funds to be used instead for public infrastructure in Midtown's first "alley activation" project, said Cohn, whose Third District encompasses both neighborhoods.
"Our hope is that it'll be part of a larger program that will make use of a lot more alleys," he said.
Cohn and members of an Alley Activation Committee in Sacramento see at least some of the central city's 600 alleys as under-used resources that could provide more space for business and residential development, thus preventing urban sprawl while adding to the city's charm.
"It really fits with the whole sustainability concept of making use of existing spaces and the existing infrastructure," he said.
A specific project description is needed to meet federal requirements for the funds, he said.
Within the next few weeks, the Alley Activation Committee is expected to create a plan outlining how public and private money will be used on this pilot project, which consists of two alleys stretching from 17th to 19th streets between L Street and Capitol Avenue. The goal is to create an attractive, well-lit pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly corridor, giving diners and shoppers easy access to the East End Parking Garage.
City Development Services staff will give input on the plan. Councilmembers have discretion over how CDBG money for their districts is used, so the plan doesn't need City Council approval, said senior city planner Stacia Cosgrove.
Developer Jeremy Drucker is also proposing to build a condo building on one of those alleys. Developer Aaron Zeff has proposed creating an upscale restaurant row in a third pilot alley located from 16th to 17th streets between I and J streets.
The CDBG funds may be used for such things as drainage, landscaping and lighting. Benches and other aesthetic improvements must be paid for by property owners, Cohn said.
The Midtown Business Association hired consultant Martha Lake to form a nonprofit organization to search for private and public grants and accept donations, as well as to create a collaborative partnership between business people spearheading alley activation and community-based organizations and residents. Work on applying for 501(c)3 has just begun, Lake said.
The city wants to see private investors make financial commitments to the pilot alley project and a program to activate alleys before releasing the CDBG funds, Cohn said.
The city could request bids for public infrastructure contracts by early next year, and work should start no later than spring or summer, he said.
Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.