Developer plans ‘funky’ approach to Natomas commercial project

March 22, 2016
Sacramento Business Journal
Ben van der Meer, Staff Writer

Commercial development in Natomas tends to be conventional for a suburban setting: Low-rise office buildings and lots of familiar retailers. But Rich Knowland said he’s planning to buck that trend with a new office/hotel development. “It’s going to be different, more funky, less corporate looking,” said Knowland, principal at Newport Beach-based Brooks Capital. “I think it could be a great part of a larger development in that part of Natomas.”Knowland’s 14.5-acre project would be on the northeast corner of Arena Boulevard and East Commerce Way. The first phase, a five-story, 120-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott, could get underway by late summer, he said.

But the three office buildings that could closely follow would go a somewhat different way. While one of the buildings would be a conventional office layout, the other two could be more “creative” office space. That means open layouts with an emphasis on collaboration and cooperation. Tenants leasing space could be individual entrepreneurs taking a workstation and sharing amenities, a small firm occupying a portion of a building or a large user taking an entire floor. The concept is still unusual in Sacramento, but it’s common in bigger cities along the coasts, Knowland said. “They have really good value and get good rents,” he said, because of the flexibility in how much space can be leased.

A “dining commons” planned within the development would also be different for the neighborhood. Rather than bringing in well-known eateries, Knowland said, he’s hoping to establish what he called mom-and-pop entrepreneurs, emphasizing farm-to-fork practices. That would give the 6,200 square foot dining area more of a public market feel, and appeal not just to office workers and hotel guests but customers outside the development.

Knowland said his company, Brooks Street, has owned the property for several years. Two recent developments compelled him to pull the trigger on a development. The first was the lifting of the building moratorium in Natomas, while the second was the announcement of redeveloping nearby Sleep Train Arena into another commercial center. Knowland said if the redevelopment turns the arena into a jobs center, it could serve as a catalyst for attracting other businesses to Natomas.

Though he’s in talks with potential tenants for the office buildings, he said, it’s possible one building will be on spec. And though “creative” office space is often associated with urban-minded millennials, he said, he believes there’s a market for that demographic in the suburbs too. “I think Natomas is the perfect place to be near a lot of amenities and also have a house,” he said.

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