Best Real Estate Projects 2023 honoree in the Mixed-Use category.: Envoy
By Sonya Herrera – Contributor
The Sacramento Business Journal held its annual Best Real Estate Projects Awards on Sept. 7. We are profiling each of the 24 honorees. Envoy is the awardee in the Mixed-Use category.
Four-story wood-frame buildings are fairly common, and in 2015, the International Building Code permitted the construction of five-story wood-frame buildings. Just this decade, Sacramento became the first city in the nation to host a six-story wood-frame building, ushering in a new wave of relatively low-cost, high-density homes.
But these innovative structures come with their challenges, as the creators of Downtown Sacramento's seven-story Envoy can attest. The project is on the southwest corner of J and 11th streets.
Kyle Nelms, project manager for contractor DesCor builders, said the biggest hurdle was ensuring that the structure's wooden walls met fire safety standards. This process involved numerous tests, inspections and meetings, he said.
"The (fire safety) ratings that we talked about were definitely one of the biggest challenges — a lot of coordination with the subcontractors, with the architect, with the building inspectors," Nelms said. "For a single wall, we would write out all the steps we would need, and it was up to 16 steps for one wall."
Young Kim, a principal at architect HRGA, said another interesting challenge was fitting Envoy's basement to the streets of Downtown. In the mid-19th century, the city raised its street level to adjust for frequent flooding from the nearby Sacramento River.
"What you're seeing on the ground floor used to be the second floor," Kim said. "We had to reinforce the street structure when we were building the basement, so there was a lot of hidden infrastructure work happening."
The history and transcendent arc of Sacramento's Downtown is part of what drew developer Anthem Properties to the area, according to Riaan De Beer, the company's vice president of development. Based in Canada, Anthem also has an office in Roseville, so building in Sacramento seemed fairly logical, De Beer said.
But as the firm studied Downtown's qualities, they were surprised to discover its hidden gems. The decision to develop in the area quickly became "a no-brainer," he said.
"We realized that it's a little bit of an unsung hero," De Beer said. "Here was a city that was doing a lot of things right in its downtown: promoting a new urbanist philosophy, trying to encourage people to live in the downtown area, trying to remove many barriers to new development."
Offering 153 rental units and first-floor commercial space, Envoy was Anthem's first multistory development in the U.S. De Beer said the project is meant to revitalize an area of Sacramento that had become shoddy in recent years.
His favorite moment of creating the project came at the end of May, just after its completion. Having worked at the site for two and a half years, the builders had come to see the neighborhood as being "derelict," and an area that many professionals avoided.
"The moment those fences came down from the construction site ... it was like a rebirth for that whole area," De Beer said. "That was exactly what we were aiming for. We wanted to take a really negative space, and turn it into something positive."
Details: 153-unit market-rate apartment and retail building
Cost: Not disclosed
Completed: Spring 2023
Developer: Anthem Properties
Contractor: DesCor Builders
Architect: HRGA Architecture