To stop new Shake Shack, Sacramento building could be called historic by City Council

The Sacramento City Council this month will consider listing a building that once housed a bank on the city’s historic register, which would halt demolition plans for a Shake Shack.

The building, located at 1950 Arden Way, is a former home savings and loan facility, according to the city staff report. It is located at the busy intersection of Arden Way and Exposition Boulevard, near the Arden Fair Shopping Center.

In August, the building’s owners contacted the city about a proposal to demolish the building and replace it with drive-thru fast food restaurants, the staff report states. An assessment by the Dudek Company of Sacramento found that it lacked the historical significance necessary to be listed on the Sacramento Register of Historic and Cultural Resources.

The assessment was distributed to neighborhoods and architectural experts. Preservation Sacramento and several other groups submitted comments to the city, saying they do indeed belong on the registry. City staff and the city Preservation Commission agreed, giving the council pause for thought.

If the municipality put it on the registry, it could technically still be demolished, but the process would be more complicated because it would be subject to various environmental regulations, said city spokeswoman Kelli Trapani.

But if it’s added to the registry, the project won’t be able to move forward, said Charles Smyth of Newport Beach-based Market Street Development.

The developer plans to build a Shake Shack on the property, Smyth said. This would be the second location in Sacramento County for the popular East Coast-based burger chain, which opened a restaurant in downtown Ice Blocks in 2020.

The second restaurant that would open at the property would also have a drive-thru, but would primarily be a sit-down restaurant with non-disposable cutlery and plates, Smyth said. The third building could be a restaurant or other type of retail business, and would not have a drive-thru, Smyth said.

The building has been vacant for at least five years and the company has been trying to find tenants for two years without success, he said. A large regional medical provider was in escrow to use it for an imaging center in 2021, but that project fell through, he said.

“It’s not a great office location, it’s more of a retail location,” Smyth said.

The building is one of several Home Savings and Loan buildings in California.

“For people who lived in California in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, local home savings and loan buildings were distinctive and immediately recognizable,” the services report said. “They helped spark an interest in local history and create a sense of place in a rapidly changing world. They were significant buildings in their time and their high quality materials, design and artwork were rightly seen as a gift to the community and the townscape. 1950 Arden Way is an excellent late example of Millard Sheets’ work.

Sheets has designed more than 100 buildings for housing savings, the report said. The three-story Arden Way location is one of the largest and most visible locations in Northern California. It also contains small glass mosaics and wall paintings, all in the latest formalist style.

A similar former bank building downtown was redeveloped into a since-closed bar, restaurant and event space, and city staff believe reuse could also be feasible on Arden Way, the report said.

The council plans to consider the item on May 28, but the date could change, Trapani said.