While the City of Sacramento’s redevelopment plans for the 240-acre Downtown Railyards appear to be getting closer to reality, another railyard project is progressing 100 miles east along the route of the first transcontinental railroad in Downtown Truckee (CA). The approximately 75-acre Truckee Railyard area, which is located on former Union Pacific property and the site of the town’s last operating lumber mill, provides an opportunity for Truckee to gain additional commercial, retail, office, entertainment, and housing uses next to a walkable downtown and become a bigger destination within the Lake Tahoe area.
Like the Sacramento Railyards, the Truckee Railyards has faced a number of challenges, particularly how to successfully incorporate a large infill site into a historic downtown. The Railyards Master Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission and Town Council in 2009, envisioned three districts: Downtown Extension, which includes entertainment, food, and the arts; Industrial Heritage, which is an area focused on commercial, arts, and live-work spaces; and Trout Creek, which is a lower density residential area. Dividing the area into districts allows new development to echo three distinct places in Central Truckee: the existing Downtown area to the west, the industrial heritage of the lumber mill and railyards, and Trout Creek.
The Downtown Extension District reflects the existing 150-year-old Downtown by providing for a single-sided commercial street, small blocks, higher density (higher than the existing Downtown), variety in building forms and uses, and civic buildings and public space. The circulation plan includes a T-intersection that acts as a gateway into Downtown from the east and slows automobile traffic. Architectural and streetscape design guidelines focus on consistency with Truckee’s Mountain Town character by maintaining views of the surrounding mountains and encouraging use of brick and wood building materials and canopies over the sidewalk.
Oakland-based Holliday Development, which owns 35 acres in the Railyards, has plans for retail, office, and light industrial space, a movie and performing arts theatre, a boutique hotel, a grocery store, a museum, and more than 500 residences. The 2011 demise of California redevelopment agencies has made financing for infrastructure improvements a key impediment to these development plans. Holliday has been able to construct one mixed-use building, which consists of a two-story townhome above a cupcake bakery, and associated streetscape improvements. The state and town governments have provided funding for the T-intersection. Once the infrastructure is in place, the Railyards should emerge as a modern expansion of a historic downtown and an important asset for the Town of Truckee.