Residents and business owners in Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood were cheering during a ground breaking ceremony in the triangle area at Broadway and 35th Street.
Three phases of a planned development will create apartments over 9,000 square feet of retail space. New homes will also be built as part of the project.
The $12 million project was funded in large part by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, the last project it is backing before it closes its doors. Governor Brown eliminated redevelopment agencies during the state budget crisis.
Architect and developer Ron Vrilakas received praise from city officials and neighborhood residents for catering to their concerns over retaining the character of the area. He did not consider the project a gamble, despite its reputation for abandoned homes, drug use and violence.
"I thought the gamble was relatively minor because I understand the community and I believe they support what we do," said Vrilakas.
A longtime resident who calls herself "Mother Rose" was ecstatic over architectural plans posted on a fence.
"It's awesome, they look great, it's going to change the face of Oak Park. We've been waiting so long for this," said Rose.
While many new homeowners have moved into the beleaguered neighborhood and renovated older homes, the main artery through the area along Broadway is known for empty lots and unsightly businesses like tire stores.
"It's going to bring jobs, beauty, a living environment. This is a game changer," said Mike Boyd, president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association.
The area has had new beginnings before. Mayor Kevin Johnson grew up in Oak Park and also developed the corner known as 40 Acres across the street from the groundbreaking. It houses a bookstore, art gallery and theater. But the recession halted further development in the area.
"That was a catalyst. This is what a catalyst is supposed to do. This is a community that is emerging and in transition and I'm proud to be a native of Oak Park," said Johnson.
Resident Charles Mason took a chance when he bought in the neighborhood four years ago.
"It's a long time coming. It's needed. It'll keep me here for a while," said Mason.
Construction is due to be finished in 2014.