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Elk Grove Citizen

Sunrise Tomorrow Promises New Downtown

Jul 07, 2020 12:00AM ● By Story by Shaunna Boyd

An artistic rendering of the 21st Century Main Street vision shows a vibrant center for community life. Image courtesy of the City of Citrus Heights/Gensler.

Sunrise Tomorrow Promises New Downtown [2 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - The City of Citrus Heights is creating a Specific Plan to guide redevelopment of the 100-acre Sunrise Mall site. The project, Sunrise Tomorrow, will define a vision for transforming the site into a regional destination and a flourishing center of community engagement. 

The Sunrise Tomorrow team saw unprecedented turnout at its first community outreach meeting back in February at the old Sears building. There have also been thousands of website engagements at, where residents engage with the project and share their priorities for the plan.

Based on all the feedback from the community, the team established a clear vision for the plan, which they presented at their second outreach meeting on June 30. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the meeting was held online through Zoom to meet social distancing guidelines. Virtual attendance exceeded expectations, with 122 residents joining the meeting to learn about the plan vision, answer poll questions, and ask questions in a real-time Q&A chat.

Through public outreach, the Sunrise Tomorrow team (led by international architecture firm Gensler) identified the community’s top priorities. “The community has given us really strong direction on how to think about changing the site and how to change its perception over time,” said Gensler’s Project Manager, Nate Cherry. “The key theme is … the idea of creating a new heart. How can we create a place where people come together that feels like the center of Citrus Heights?”

The Sunrise Tomorrow vision is a 21st Century Main Street. Cherry described it as “forward looking but also familiar … Not only a regional destination that visitors want to visit, but … a local place, a place that Citrus Heights residents really feel is theirs.”

The mall has seen a 44% decrease in visitors in the last decade, leading to a 28% decline in taxable retail sales in the city. In January 2020, the mall had a 40% vacancy rate. The mall is largely a vacant building in a sea of parking lots. For the mall to become a thriving community center, retail is not enough — there must be a mix of uses to attract more visitors. Hotels, employment centers, a variety of housing options, family-friendly activities, diverse dining and retail options, tree-lined streets, an outdoor event center, and abundant green spaces will combine quality of life with economic growth.

Cherry explained that job creation is vital to this plan: “It has to be an economic engine, has to generate jobs and prosperity for the area.” The plan is projected to create more than 3,400 jobs — including approximately 350 annual construction jobs over the next 20 years.

Housing is also a critical need in Citrus Heights, so the plan proposes a mix of 220 townhomes, 195 apartment units, 125 units for active seniors, and 585 mixed-use residential units for on-site professionals. The variety of on-site activities and amenities, along with enhanced pedestrian safety measures along Sunrise Blvd., would attract people to these new neighborhoods.

A network of parks and plazas would offer a variety of outdoor experiences, all connected by a walkable and bikeable green loop. Fresh foods could be grown in community gardens, creating a farm-to-fork partnership with the on-site restaurants. With 25 acres of potential parks and green spaces, up to 30% of the site would be active, open space. The plan even includes the excavation of a creek that was paved over when the mall was originally built.

Participant polls during the meeting revealed that residents are most excited for the Main Street atmosphere, indoor/outdoor dining options, and on-site events. Cherry said there are currently around a half dozen events on site throughout the year. A large, open green space with an event tent would act as a front door to the site (right along Sunrise Blvd.) where the community could gather for concerts and large events. The variety of open spaces throughout the site would create “a pulse of weekly, monthly, holiday time, and seasonal events that would really generate a tremendous amount of foot traffic throughout the year,” said Cherry.

With the potential for more than 100 events each year, up to 25 new restaurants, and diverse retail opportunities, the revitalized mall could draw 12 million annual visitors. The goal is to transform the site into a downtown for Citrus Heights while generating a new tax base to create new revenue for the city.

While the City of Citrus Heights does not own any land on the mall site, they have collaborated with the various mall owners to reach the shared vision of 21st Century Main Street. The actual development of the plan will be funded by the mall owners and any private or public development partners they bring in.

The plan will be implemented in phases over the next 20 years. Phase 1 will roll out over the next five years with projects that can commence without disturbing existing businesses, such as development of the old Sears building and stand-alone retail and restaurants in the parking areas along Sunrise Blvd. Phase 2 would begin in five to 10 years with the development of the employment anchors along Greenback Lane, townhomes to the east, and various green spaces. The Main Street development is planned in the area of the existing mall, so it cannot move forward while businesses are operating with current leases; development will commence in Phase 3, in 10–15 years. While JC Penny and Macy’s are both committed to remaining in their current locations as part of the 21st Century Main Street project, Phase 4 includes potential redevelopment of the department stores in 15–20 years if the markets should change over the coming decades.

Visit to participate in the online engagement process, view an interactive project map, and provide feedback on the plan.