Sacramento Bee: Restored Sacramento train depot offers glimpse of past and future

By Anita Chabria A few years ago, pigeons roosted inside on the decrepit rafters of the Sacramento Valley Station. Train passengers waited outside in the elements to retrieve their bags. On Thursday, the doors officially opened on the rehabbed building that city and state leaders said they hope will serve as a “front door” to Sacramento and highlight both the history and future of the region. And provide a sheltered luggage area. “Every century or so, we use this very depot to imagine, re-image and define our future,” Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg told a crowd of hundreds that gathered under the ornate vaulted ceiling painted with intricate pink and blue trim. “This depot is in fact a microcosm for all that defines what is special about the city we love.” One of the key upgrades in the $36-million renovation of the brick structure at 5th and I streets was the restoration of the main hall, which was made possible by relocating the ticketing area. Anchored by a restored 1926 mural depicting the launch of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1863, it’s a grand space with ornate brass chandeliers and three large arched windows – formerly covered – that bring in natural light. The room, said some of those gathered, is a civic space replete with optimistic architectural determinism. “I think it affects people,” said Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris. “It’s an homage to things that have come before in a grander age.” Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui said the depot will also help people envision what the adjoining railyard might be like as it develops in coming years. Planned projects include a Kaiser hospital, a soccer stadium and thousands of housing units that will create a new neighborhood. “You don’t see anything there yet, but this is it,” said Matsui, gesturing at the hall. “This is the entrance ... and it’s an opening to what’s going on back there.” Sacramento historian William Burg said that as the neighborhood develops, he can see the depot becoming a gathering spot for more than just travelers. The space includes room for retail, restaurants and businesses. The roof space is designed to house a bar, but no operator has yet leased it. McClatchy, parent of The Sacramento Bee, announced Thursday will become the first tenant of the space. The company is partnering with Google and YouTube for a video lab that will occupy about 10,000 square feet on the second floor. McClatchy Vice President Andrew Pergam said the company chose the space because it provided easy transportation access to the Bay Area while centering the new endeavor in a neighborhood focused on innovation and growth. “We’re excited to be helping to figure out what this area becomes,” said Pergam.