Workers are putting the finishing touches on downtown Sacramento’s K Street, getting it ready for automobile traffic for the first time in over 40 years.
It was closed to traffic in 1969 when concrete sculptures and water features were installed, transforming the street into a pedestrian mall that was in vogue at the time.
But the experiment failed.
Now the city is following other communities who are re-opening pedestrian only streets to cars. Parts of the street have a lot of vacant storefronts. More visibility and accessibility may attract developers who will build retail stores and housing units.
“They like to see that there is both pedestrian and vehicular access to that street so it is definitely an opportunity to grow that district,” said Lisa Martinez of the Sacramento Downtown Partnership.
How successful it will be is unknown. Signs are reminding pedestrians they must now use crosswalks.
“I’m a little concerned as a pedestrian. I have to pay a little more attention,” said Lea Adams who works downtown.
There is no curb separating sidewalks from the street and there is no parking as there was when the street was the main drag through town and the center of the city’s entertainment scene. And the trees that were grown to make it more comfortable for pedestrians now hide business signs from people in cars.
Still, Mayor Kevin Johnson has called the K Street Mall a 40-year failure, and a celebration is scheduled when the street is opened to cars on Saturday.
Some believe any additional activity in along K Street will be a plus.
“I might appreciate having more traffic down here, especially as it gets later in the evening. I’m probably going to feel a little safer,” said Adams, who was referring to the number of transients who often frequent the street after hours.