Citrus Heights adopts new Sunrise Mall specific plan

The Citrus Heights City Council this week unanimously voted to approve a new specific plan

The Citrus Heights City Council this week unanimously voted to approve a new specific plan outlining redevelopment at the Sunrise Mall.

On Wednesday, council members adopted the Sunrise Tomorrow Specific Plan, which laid out more concrete plans for mixed-use development including thousands of new housing units at the sprawling yet underutilized mall site, which city leadership has been keen on transforming for years.

“Once ‘the place to be’ in Sacramento County, Sunrise Mall has fallen on hard times,” the specific plan begins. “The time has come for a fundamental rethinking of the Mall and surrounding area as a whole.”

One of the mall’s anchor tenants, Sears, closed its store in 2018, and brick-and-mortar retail sales have dwindled at Sunrise Mall over the years. In July 2019, the City Council amended the city’s general plan in the hopes of guiding the mall toward a mix of housing, office space and retail.

“Sunrise Mall has long been in decline, due to changing retail trends,” the city’s interim city manager, Chris Boyd, said in a news release. “We know our community wants to see the site brought back to its former glory, and the adoption of our Specific Plan is a huge step in that process. Unlocking the 100-acre mall property for future mixed-use development, as opposed to keeping the site all retail, means mall owners now have the opportunity to densify, diversify, and breathe new life into the heart of our City.”

The specific plan allows for rezoning of the mall property in order to accommodate residential and other new uses and allows triple the amount of development at the site. Under the new plan, 2,220 units of housing are proposed for development, plus 960,000 square feet of office space, 480 hotel rooms and 450,000 square feet of community space.

The amount of retail space at Sunrise Mall is expected to shrink as the site is redeveloped into a mixed-use space, dropping from its current footprint of nearly 1.1 million square feet of retail to just 320,000 square feet.

The mall’s majority owner, New York-based Namdar Realty Group, submitted a letter of support for the specific plan.

“We have been working closely with City Staff to discuss redevelopment options for our property and support the approval of the Sunrise Tomorrow Specific Plan,” Namdar CEO Igal Namdar said in the letter. “We look forward to advancing our plans for the site.”

The specific plan lays out a four-phase timeline, estimated to take 20 years to fully realize. The first phase calls for initial redevelopment of the former Sears store, which could take five years to complete. Later phases lay out plans for redeveloping different sections of the mall’s Macy’s, the JCPenney and the general mall space itself.

Some of the key amenities proposed at the site include a campus square near the center of the mall property, an event plaza, community green spaces and a mutli-use trail looping around the site.

The project could cost $818 million to complete in full, although the specific plan said that the future value of the project is projected to reach $1.1 billion, compared with the current estimated property value of $31 million.

City leadership said the mall will remain open as redevelopment gets underway. The first step expected in the redevelopment process, according to the city, would be converting extra parking space.

“Our specific plan lays the groundwork for transforming the Sunrise Mall site into a vibrant mixed-used community creating a destination for our residents to live, shop, work, and play,” Boyd said. “And while the plan is momentous in that right alone, I also know that this project has the potential to serve as a national case study in how local government, when armed with motivated staff and an engaged community, can influence real, meaningful change when it comes to economic stewardship.”

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Vincent Moleski covers breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and previously wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.