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Capitol Mall design competition winners to be announced Nov. 9

An array of designs submitted as part of the Catalyst Capitol Mall Design Competition in an effort to spark a “big idea” for future enhancement of the corridor from Tower Bridge to 10th Street were reviewed by a jury Oct. 7, and winners will be announced Nov. 9.

While the winner can’t yet be revealed, Kris Barkley, competition adviser to the city on behalf of the American Institute of Architects, described some key assets of the winning proposal.

“The first-place winner, I think, is really, really focused on what I think the people of Sacramento are feeling will work there,” he said. “It’s a tree-centered development that improves the urban canopy we have in Sacramento and brings it more fully into Capitol Mall.”

The competition began earlier this year and is intended to redesign the section of Capitol Mall from Tower Bridge to 10th Street after it was returned to city ownership by the state in 2006.

The first-place design will be awarded $20,000, with $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place.

An entrance fee of $200 per design was charged, which covered part of the cost. The total competition budget was $66,500.

With the ongoing economic crisis, Barkley said one aspect any successful design would have is the ability to be built in phases.

“They can be accomplished in smaller chunks to create an overall master plan over a period of years,” he said. “That way, the city can ease into it slowly as funds are available.”

The 48 designs that met the criteria, which can be viewed here, include a wide range of ideas.

One involves removing the center median, moving traffic lanes closer together and widening the existing sidewalks. Another envisions constructing a raised grass walkway, and still others call for the construction of iconic buildings used for myriad purposes.

Barkley said the second-place design divides Capitol Mall into different zones, with some being open plazas as public space and others being quieter.

One of the jurors in the decision-making process was Sacramento Urban Design Manager Bill Crouch, who said the field of entries was varied and made up of quality designs.

“We got a lot of really good, creative submittals,” he said. “There wasn’t one idea that was repeated over and over again.”

For fairness, Crouch said, judging criteria was set from the beginning and applied equally to all submissions, and each submission had a number attached to it instead of a firm so no juror would know whose project he or she was looking at, and therefore would judge it only on the quality.

“I think the public will be really impressed when the winners are announced and there’s an opportunity to view them,” he said. “The public should be encouraged that in a down economic climate, there’s so much international interest. The designs came from all over, and I think that’s a compliment to Sacramento.”

Designs came from all six inhabited continents, including countries as diverse as Iran and Vietnam.

Crouch added that the decision-making process took the better part of a day – even after jurors had reviewed the designs – but by the end, there was a general consensus on which projects deserved first, second and third prize.

The jury was made up of three internationally known design professionals, Crouch, a representative from the state and a Capitol Mall District representative. To view the jurors’ biographies, click here.

“I’m excited that there was interest from all over the world and that we had that number of submissions,” said City Councilman Steve Cohn. “I can’t discuss personal observations because I haven’t had a chance to look at them, but I understand from city staff that we got some very high-quality submittals.”

Cohn added that he looks forward to getting a vision for what the Capitol Mall corridor – including branching off to the Crocker Art Museum and Westfield Downtown Plaza – will look like and start making steps toward realizing that vision.

Other details of the winning designs will not be released before the Nov. 9 announcement, said Marika Rose, spokeswoman for the competition.

The announcements will be made at the Wells Fargo Center, 400 Capitol Mall, in an event that is open to the public, with ticket prices of $25.

“There will be a video presentation to highlight the winners and explain why they were chosen,” Rose said, adding that the video will also give history of Capitol Mall, which was originally considered the gateway to the city.

Members of the pubic can also vote for their favorite design through the Catalyst website.

“I think it’s always interesting to see what comes out of the public viewing of things and makes the process more transparent,” Barkley said. “Anyone can get in and see what’s happening, and it helps them see how the winners were selected.”

Lisa Martinez, marketing director for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, said the designs that DSP staffers have had the chance to review look promising.

“We haven’t had a chance to really be able to review every single one of the entries, but from just the few we’ve looked at, there are a lot of great ideas and a lot of creativity coming out,” she said.

Rose described the whole process as smooth.

“It was a pleasure for everyone to work on,” she said. “It was very little investment for the city, and they’ll get a great return on phase-able designs.”

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

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