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A Strategic Plan and Vision for the River District

A Strategic Plan and Vision for the River District

At the State of the River District event in March, 2023, the organization kicked off its Strategic Plan and Vision initiative. Along with consultants at Atlas Lab, the River District’s board, staff, and stakeholders have spent the following months examining the history and current conditions of the district, looking at other cities who have revitalized their riverfronts, and gathered community input on what the future of the River District could look like. Two subcommittees were formed: one comprised of members of the board of directors and one from the place enhancement committee. Members of both subcommittees attended an initial site visit to explore the assets of the district.

In May, a stakeholder charette was held, where attendees could give instant feedback on various ideas, images and concepts related to placemaking, activation, development, and planning. The agenda for the event included a discussion of context and the history of the River District, initial impressions based off the site visit in March, and identifying project goals.

There will be three outputs of the project. First will be to create a strategic plan for the organization, which will drive the programs and activities in order to reach the goals set by the plan. Secondly, a set of recommendations will be provided to the city for consideration in the development of the updated River District Specific Plan. Lastly, a marketing initiative will be created based on the vision established throughout the process.

The District’s previous regional role as the industrial “back of house” is being challenged by new development. A cohesive vision is needed to focus and organize the District’s development momentum. Location and proximity to Downtown set up the District as a gateway to Sacramento – and a unique destination in its own right.

Five goals were set for the project:

  1. Define a cohesive vision for the River District in 2035 that aligns with state, regional and city-wide goals.
  2. Establish guiding principles that address existing issues and inform future decision-making and prioritization.
  3. Develop a unique visual identity and public realm character for neighborhoods within the district.
  4. Create a development framework to guide future investments.
  5. Identify strategic wins that can catalyze improvements to the district.

Following the charette, additional focus groups and discussions were conducted to establish guiding principles. In August, Atlas Lab presented the framework plan progress, which included the following guiding principles.

  1. Develop a series of distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character, center, and unique mix of uses.
  2. Encourage development that reinforces the character of each neighborhood, with appropriate building scale, height, and transitions between areas.
  3. Create a network of open spaces stemming from the Riversthat celebrates native ecosystems and provides resilient green infrastructure for development.
  4. Prioritize human comfort and safety by investing in bike and pedestrian connections, high quality open spaces, and minimizing vehicles on local streets.
  5. Focus multi-modal uses along high-volume transportation corridors while emphasizing the pedestrian experience for future residential development.

In September, a virtual tour was held, where seven potential focus areas were considered as part of the visioning process. Three focus areas were ultimately selected and in October, a walking tour of the three areas was arranged. The areas of focus include “The Growers District” which is the area surrounding the North 16th Historic District; “Green Innovation District” which encompasses the central areas of the district and includes projects like the Alchemist Public Market and the Richards Blvd Office Complex; and “Riverfront” which includes the entire stretch of both the American and Sacramento Rivers which define the northern and western boundaries of the District.

Incorporating feedback garnered throughout the process, work is now being done to create urban design vision plans and a draft strategic plan. Early in the 2024, additional surveying and conversations will be conducted in order to create the final strategic plan, complete the recommendations for the specific plan update, and produce the vision marketing collateral which will include a ‘virtual tour’ of the three focus areas presented in a high-tech, visually appealing medium.

For more information on the Strategic Plan and Vision initiative, please contact

By Devin Strecker