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By Mike Hazlip–
Citrus Heights residents attending an online workshop on Tuesday got an inside look at the city’s ambitious plan to completely re-make the aging 100-acre Sunrise Mall property into a modern main street, featuring nightlife, a large event venue, apartments, hotels, brew pubs and more.
The plan, billed as the “21st Century Main Street,” has been selected by the City Council as the preferred plan for the future of Sunrise Mall and was unveiled in a joint presentation by the city and Gensler, a San Francisco-based architectural and planning firm.
The plan would transform the existing mall footprint into an outdoor shopping and dining area inspired by the Fountains in Roseville and Folsom’s Palladio mall, which have been popular comparisons mentioned in discussions about Sunrise Mall’s future. The design also features significant green space and walking paths that would be incorporated in the overall plan.
According to the four-phase plan, initial development would begin in existing parking areas around the mall’s perimeter.
Phase one would include development of residential buildings and separate restaurant buildings along Sunrise Boulevard. An additional residential development on the south side of the property along Macy Plaza Drive is also slated to begin during phase one.
A central community gathering space and outdoor event tent facing Sunrise Boulevard would serve as a hub for year-round events, with over 100 events possible per year, according to Gensler. The desired goal of creating a regional destination point would draw an estimated 12 million people per year, helping revitalize the economic engine the mall once served as.
The plan is projected to span two decades. Major redevelopment of the mall itself is part of phase three, which is estimated to occur 10 to 15 years into the plan.
Some have been skeptical of whether the city’s ambitious plans will ever become a reality, as the city doesn’t own the mall property. However, the plan has gained the support of Namdar, which is the mall property’s majority owner.
“We are thrilled to be working with the City of Citrus Heights on this exciting project,” Namdar said in statement included in Tuesday’s presentation. “The result of this collaborative process is a shared vision for the future of the mall… and a much-improved lifestyle for Citrus Heights residents.”
The city’s role in the process has been to facilitate discussion among shareholders and guide development through the creation of a specific plan.
Traffic has also been a concern with any proposed development in Citrus Heights, which faces existing traffic issues during peak commute times. According to Gensler, the redeveloped mall property would bring a 10 percent increase in traffic, with additional impacts mitigated by transit and walkable design features to encourage alternative modes of travel.
The traffic pattern outlined in the presentation would bring vehicular and pedestrian traffic to the site’s interior using slow speed tree-lined streets. Gensler is proposing a pedestrian crosswalk across Sunrise Boulevard between the mall and Birdcage Marketplace.
A new signal light proposed between Macy Plaza Drive and the crosswalk would reduce traffic speeds in the area and increase safety, according to Gensler. The firm presented statistics of 57 traffic collisions in the area of Sunrise and Greenback between 2017 and 2019.
The June 30 presentation was a followup to a community event held in February in the former Sears building, where several hundred attended The latest community meeting was held live online in an effort to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, with participants able to interact during the presentation through several surveys.
The city has been working with Gensler to include community input for development plans. In addition to the June 30 presentation, planners have set up a website, sunrisetomorrow.net, that allows users to comment on specific aspects of the concept. The site has had over 10,000 visits and over 450 survey responses, according to Gensler.
In addition to community input, project organizers have also held workshops with stakeholders and property owners. Nearly 50 stakeholders and civic leaders participated in a workshop in January, according to information available on the Sunrise Tomorrow website.
Ken Neutz, owner of Sunrise Rollerland, told The Sentinel in an earlier interview he has concerns that a proposed apartment building will block his business from the heart of the main street.
Redevelopment of anchor retail stores, JC Penney and Macy’s, is projected to be completed in the last phase of the plan according to Jaymes Dunsmore of Gensler. He said both retailers “want to continue to operate their stores” at the site.
According to Sacramento Business Journal, mall majority owner Namdar Realty Group, recently acquired the Macy’s building in a transaction earlier this year. Macy’s spokesperson Emily Goldberg told the Journal the company will continue to lease the space back from Namdar and keep the retail location open. Large anchor retail tenants usually own their own properties which can hinder redevelopment.
The mall’s other national anchor, JC Penney, filed for bankruptcy according to a company announcement May 15. The corporation plans to close 148 locations across the nation. The Citrus Heights location was not on the company’s list of closures as of press time.
The city’s next step in the process for creating a Specific Plan to guide development at Sunrise Mall will be a July 9 joint study session with the City Council and Planning Commission. The current plan is still subject to change, and also must go through an extensive environmental review before being finalized.
A two-week outreach period to receive more public input has also been launched by the city, with responses being accepted through July 14. More information can be found at www.sunrisetomorrow.net.
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