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Elk Grove Citizen

Development Fuels Elk Grove’s Growth

May 10, 2024 10:42AM ● By Malcolm Curry, Special to the Citizen
Editor’s Note: Malcolm Curry is a student in the journalism program at California State University, Sacramento. Curry is being taught by Phillip Reese, a professional journalist and an assistant professor at the university. For more information about the California State University, Sacramento journalism program, visit

ELK GROVE, CA (MPG) - Already home to nearly 180,000 residents, Elk Grove has continued to grow in the past few years even as most of the state has seen population declines.
From 2019 through 2023, Elk Grove added about 4,000 residents, for a growth rate of 2.3%, according to the state Department of Finance. During the same period, California’s population declined by 1.7%.
Experts say the addition of hundreds of homes, several shopping centers, a casino and the Elk Grove’s potential acquisition of the Sacramento Zoo have helped drive the city’s growth.
The Ridge shopping center began development in 2019. Since then, it has introduced 20 retailers and restaurants, as well as drawing 30.2 million visits, according to Tishiana Mann, an economic development specialist at the city of Elk Grove.
There are 7,332 community shopping centers nationwide, and Elk Grove’s The Ridge ranks No. 157 in terms of visits since its opening in 2019 (97th percentile). It also ranked No. 49 out of 791 statewide (93rd percentile), and No. 1 within a 15-mile radius of its location, according to data from, which uses location data from electronic devices to measure how many people visit various places.
Sky River Casino opened in August 2022 in the southern part of Elk Grove. Since its opening, there have been 5 million visits and it ranks as the 73rd most visited casino out of 5,685 nationwide (98th percentile). Sky River also ranks as the sixth most-visited casino in the state out of 737 casinos (99th percentile); and the most visited within a 15-mile radius, data shows.
“They (The Ridge) opened in 2022 and they’re doing really well. They’re drawing in a lot of visitors. In their first year, they exceeded their revenue expectations,” Mann said.
Another aspect of Elk Grove’s growth over the past few years has been the addition of hundreds of homes and businesses. In 2023 alone, Elk Grove had more than 400 new business licenses, along with more than 800 new affordable homes that began development, according to Mann.
With the speed of the city’s growth, residents are asking for more restaurants and retail options, which has led city economic developer managers to put programs in place that encourage vitality and placemaking, which can lead to economic growth.
“I think we’ve invested a lot in infrastructure and keeping neighborhoods safe. There’s a lot of programs that encourage businesses,” Elk Grove District 1 City Councilmember Darren Suen said. “Plus the sheer factor of people moving to the area and the population growing. When more people come, there’s more things that people depend upon to support them. Businesses, retail, restaurants, coffee shops, nail salons.”
Elk Grove leaders said the city is attractive to new residents, due to its high standard of living and diverse population.
The city’s housing affordability, wealth creation opportunity, high quality of life and diversity are among the leading factors that attract young families, according to Mann.
One of the main problems Elk Grove has faced over the past decade is housing affordability. Since 2019, the number of Elk Grove homes sold has gone down, while the median sales price has risen, according to data from, meaning the increase in pricing might have driven future residents away.
A decade ago, city leaders faced criticism over “sprawl” and building too many homes. Much of the criticism today has shifted to housing affordability and lack of homes. 
This shift in narrative shows how the city has been on the correct path the entire time, according to Suen. 
“I’ve been living here now for 23 or 24 years, but since I came into office (2014), we’ve built a lot of affordable housing in our community. Many people don’t recognize it or are not aware of it. But the reason why you don’t recognize it is because it (housing) looks so good. It doesn’t look run down or anything; it’s really done well,” Suen said. 
Elk Grove resident John Cortez moved from the Bay Area in 2019.
“I used to live in Fremont and I’d say the price here is about 10% to 20% more expensive but I’d say it’s worth it because of the condition of the city,” Cortez said. “It’s very nice, it’s clean, it’s developed really well, and since I moved here, it’s definitely gotten a little bit bigger. You’re starting to see more parks, and it’s getting a lot busier.” 
Elk Grove will soon be a destination for the beloved animals at the Sacramento Zoo. 
The Sacramento Zoo is more than 100 years old and has quite small enclosures. With the increased animal welfare standards, the size of the compound will no longer suffice, so the Sacramento Zoological Society and the city of Elk Grove are hoping to partner on a relocation project to move the zoo to the southern part of Elk Grove, according to Mann. 
The city’s Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the approval of the zoo’s relocation and the Elk Grove City Council was set to consider its approval in a public meeting on May 8. If approved, the zoo is set to open sometime in 2029. City leaders hope it will help to grow Elk Grove’s economy. 
“I appreciate what the zoo can bring for the region,” Suen said. “It’s going to cost a lot of money. That’s something that’s not lost on me, and I take it very seriously. But it looks like it’ll be a good decision for our city to go into partnership with them.”
Mann said the zoo could bring in 1 million visitors annually and support 250 jobs.
“So you’ve got more visitors coming, plus more residents. Those people are spending money in the economy, which leads to the city getting more funding so we can expand our programs and services,” Mann said. 
Suen said that, looking ahead, the city is working on Project Elevate, a mixed-use project that would allow residents to live next to shopping, arts, entertainment and restaurants. 
Project Elevate is a multiyear development project that is set to be on the corner of Big Horn and Elk Grove boulevards. The development is meant to “elevate” the level of retail, dining and entertainment in the city, while also encouraging pedestrian activity, such as with public gathering spaces. According to the city of Elk Grove’s website, Project Elevate could possibly take up to 15 years to fully develop; however, it would “push the local and regional market forward.” 
Suen said, “There’s always been a desire to have more jobs in our city. One of my visions is to have a balanced community where people can just live, work and play here.”